The U.S. National Gallery of Art acquired its first painting by a Native American artist.

Justin Kamp
Jul 7, 2020 4:44PM, via National Gallery of Art

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, I See Red: Target (1992) by \. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has acquired Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s 11-foot tall mixed-media piece I See Red: Target (1992), making it the first painting by a Native American artist to enter the museum’s collection. The National Gallery of Art opened in 1941. The work was purchased with funds provided by major collectors Emily and Mitchell Rales.

Smith, an enrolled Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation in Montana, created the monumental work as part of a series commenting on the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. The piece combines sculptural assemblage, collaged newspaper clippings, historic photography and Smith’s painterly touches into a commentary on “Native Americans being used as commodities,” as Smith told the Star-Tribune.

The piece is on view in the museum’s East Building Pop art galleries, where it hangs in close proximity to other Pop works whose style the piece comments on, including Jasper Johns’s Target (1958) and Andy Warhol’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Rauschenberg Family) (1962).

Shana Condill, the museum’s budget and administrative coordinator, said in an essay on the piece:

Native people are often left without a voice. Native people must decide to take up space—to use our voices in the most powerful way we can think of. And when we do, we represent more than 500 tribes. It’s a ridiculous responsibility. This painting is a loud and powerful voice at a national museum. When you walk in the gallery, you cannot ignore it.
Justin Kamp