Weisel Family Gift Transforms the Museums’ Holdings of Native North American Art

March 21, 2014

The Thomas W. Weisel Family Collection is an extraordinary grouping of native North American art that spans a thousand years of artistic production. At its core are Southwestern ceramics from the 11th to the 20th centuries and masterworks of Navajo weaving from the 19th century. In 2013, the Weisel Family gave the museums 185 objects from these holdings; an additional 21 textiles are on loan to the Museums and are pledged to enter the permanent collection in 2016. Combined, the 206 objects will transform the Native American art collection of the de Young, giving it a new depth and scope.

Bear Effigy

Bear Effigy, ca. 1870. Haida. Wood and paint. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of the Thomas W. Weisel Family 

The Southwestern ceramics range from ancient Mimbres pieces to 20th-century works by recognized artists such as the Hopi-Tewa potter Nampeyo. The gift also includes objects of Northwest Coast art and the first Plains ledger drawings to enter the collection. Building on major donations—such as gifts of Eskimo and Inuit art from the Thomas G. Fowler Collection in 2007 and ongoing gifts of 20th-century and contemporary pottery of the Southwest from the collection of Paul and Barbara Weiss—as well as the de Young’s charter collection of California baskets, the Museums have an new opportunity to present a comprehensive and innovative story of Native American art with a distinctly western focus, stretching from the Arctic Circle to the American Southwest. The rich iconography of ancient Southwestern ceramics provide a chronological and intellectual link with other parts of the Americas collection, particularly Maya art from the collection of Alec and Gail Merriam and previous gifts from Lewis K. and Elizabeth M. Land and the Erle Loran Family Collection.

Storage Jar

Storage Jar, ca. 1880–1900. United States, Zia. Earthenware with polychrome. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of the Thomas W. Weisel Family

The Weisel Family has also generously established an endowment that will sponsor and support research of the de Young’s permanent collection of Native American art and programs that allow the museum to share it meaningfully with the public. We anticipate that the endowment will fund a variety of activities, including the production of publications about the collection, extended research visits from contemporary Native American artists and students, and lectures by noted scholars. The collection and endowment will rejuvenate the presentation of Native American art at the de Young, providing our local, national, and international visitors with the opportunity to more completely understand the artworks’ unique aesthetics and the cultural histories of the peoples who made them.


Bowl (Deer in Geometric Landscape), ca. 1010–1130. United States, New Mexico, Mimbres. Earthenware with pigment. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of the Thomas W. Weisel Family