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Museum of International Folk Art
About Us : Girard Wing
Alexander H. Girard

Alexander " Sandro" Girard grew up in Florence, Italy, the son of an American mother and an Italian father. As a child he was fascinated by nativities, toys, and miniatures.

Alexander Girard first began collecting folk art in the 1930's, buying a few pieces in New York, starting with a spatter-painted Mexican bank in the shape of a horse. Later, on a postponed honeymoon, Alexander and Susan Girard traveled to Mexico and returned with a carload of things for their home, the beginnings of what was to become the largest collection of cross-cultural folk art in the world.

Alexander GirardIt was in 1978 that the Girards made a gift of the Girard Foundation Collection to the State of New Mexico. Their generous gift of some 106,000 objects quintupled the size of the Museum of International Folk Art's collection and led to the construction of a new wing for the museum.

Alexander Girard himself designed the exhibition Multiple Visions: A Common Bond which displays more than 10,000 pieces from the Girard Foundation Collection. An interior designer and architect, he was already well-known for his bold and colorful designs of textiles, household and office furnishings, graphics, and interiors for corporate clients such as Herman Miller, Inc., John Deere and Braniff International. In this installation, he challenged the conventions of exhibition design. Notice how his design occupies the entire volume of the gallery space, how he places objects both above and below eye level, and how he used color throughout the exhibit, even overhead.

More than a million visitors have enjoyed the creativity and generosity of Alexander and Susan Girard since the exhibition opened in 1982. Like museum founder Florence Dibell Bartlett, Alexander Girard hoped visitors would see connections, the common bond, among the peoples of the world. For indeed, as an old Italian proverb oft-repeated by Sandro Girard tells us, Tutto il mondo è paese- The whole world is hometown.

Books about Alexander Girard and Multiple Visions: A Common Bond

Spirit of Folk Art  CoverThe Spirit of Folk Art
The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art
Perhaps the greatest contribution made by the Girard Collection is its breadth, the fact that it encompasses so many of the world's cultures in its reach. It is the nature of the Girard Collection, and Girard's own evocative and eclectic tastes, that much of what they have single-handedly preserved is precisely what has not been collected by others, particularly museums, in any systematic fashion. Among such works are a broad category of ephemera, from Chinese door gods to European juvenile theaters; figurative ceramics, from Cochiti Pueblo to Calcutta, often deemed "tourist art" by the purists who view tradition as unresponsive to change, and toys, traditionally those objects most ignored by ethnographers. Objects such as these give mute testimony to the vision that marks the Girard Collection. Essays by Henry Glassie, 276 pages with black and white and color plates. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers in association with the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, $29.95 Clothbound

Folk Art From the Global Village Book CoverFolk Art from the Global Village:
The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art

Alexander Girard (1907-1993) amassed the largest cross-cultural folk art collection in the world. Girard was captivated by the "hand-crafted" cultures of the world and saw the tragedy of their demise. Yet as a collector, he was looking not to capture the past but to nourish the spirit of mankind and encourage the art that we can create for ourselves now. The Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art, designed by the collector to permanently exhibit some ten thousand pieces, continually proves that Girard was right in believing that in folk art there are no foreigners. Essay by Jack Lenor Larsen, et. al. 96 pages with 100 color plates. Museum of New Mexico Press, $19.95 Clothbound.

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