Alan J. Hirschfield says of his collection of American Indian art, “I try to understand the artist’s culture and to appreciate the beauty and meaning of each work.” Through the years, he and his wife, Berte, have built an extraordinary collection of these objects and a home in Wyoming designed specifically to accommodate them—the Hirschfields are quite literally living with the art.
At the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on June 14, Hirschfield discusses and signs copies of his book on the Hirschfield Collection, appropriately titled Living with American Indian Art. Written by Hirschfield with Terry Winchell, the book features beautiful photography by W. Garth Dowling. Hirschfield’s talk is included in regular admission and takes place Friday, June 14, 1:30 p.m. in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. The book signing follows at 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on site in the Center’s Museum Store, which has the book for sale.
Hirschfield has had a fascinating career, primarily as an executive in the entertainment industry. Educated at the University of Oklahoma and then Harvard Business School, he began his career on Wall Street as an investment banker. That soon led him into the television, movie, and radio business. His resume includes serving as the Chief Executive of both Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures, as well as work with many nonprofit institutions and numerous philanthropic endeavors.
During his long and varied career, Hirschfield has always been an art collector. He grew up in Oklahoma, with its significant American Indian culture and art. “My interest in Plains objects intensified further,” he says in the book, “when we decided to build our home in Wyoming—the place where many of these tribes had lived, hunted and battled.” He continues, “It seemed only natural to live with the objects representing their way of life, enriching our sense of place and our Wyoming roots.”
The result, according to Gaylord Torrence, Senior Curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and author of the book’s foreword, is that “the Hirschfields’ home is as carefully planned and skillfully installed as any fine arts museum.” Torrence states that the Hirschfield Collection is “among the greatest private collections of Plains and Plateau Indian art in the world.” Through the book and his talk at the Center, Hirschfield shares the collection—and several of its masterworks that have never before been exhibited or published—with the public.
Since 1917, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has been committed to the greatness and growth of the American West, keeping western experiences alive. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone—into the rich panorama that is the American West.