Simple Gifts: Shaker at The Met Fifth Ave
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—also known as the Shakers—is a utopian religious sect that rose to prominence in America in the 19th century. The Shakers distinguished themselves from mainstream American culture by establishing communities centered on the equality of the sexes, collective property, pacifism, and industry.
This installation features more than two dozen works from The Met’s permanent collection, including furniture, textiles, and tools, that reflect the Shakers’ life and art. These objects embody the Shakers’ characteristic, minimalist designs and careful craftsmanship, both of which strongly influenced 19th-century counterparts in the external world as well as 20th- and 21st-century modern artists, performers, collectors, and museums.
From the 1930s to ’60s, collectors Faith and Edward Andrews cultivated relationships with surviving Shaker groups in New York and New England and accumulated the most comprehensive collection of furniture, textiles, and archival objects from the Believers. In 1966, The Met acquired numerous works from the Andrewses’ collection, several of which are on view in this installation.
In addition, Shaker artifacts are grouped near paintings by artist Charles Sheeler (1883–1965) and a video projection of Martha Graham’s modern dance Appalachian Spring, which was performed on a stage set designed by Isamu Noguchi and choreographed to Aaron Copland’s timeless musical score. The blending of historic and modern artwork in this installation provides a compelling narrative on the legacy of Shaker design from the 19th through the 21st century.