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by Gerard C. Wertkin, Director

It has been just over one year since the American Folk Art Museum opened the doors to its splendid new home at 45 West 53rd Street in New York City—forty years after its founding, the museum finally has a building of its own. As we enter 2003, we are able to look back at a year that was distinguished not only by the realization of many of the American Folk Art Museum's longest held dreams, but by widespread public recognition of the extent of its significant achievements.

During the last year, the museum and its architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, were awarded the World Architecture ARUP Award for the Best New Building in the World, as well as the Brendan Gill Award of the Municipal Art Society for the Best New Building in New York City. These and other impressive citations provide recognition of how successfully the beautiful structure, with its elegant and sleek façade, integrates soaring interior spaces within an environment that is essentially domestic in scale, while providing a perfect setting for the presentation of folk art.

Among the highlights of a year of highlights, I am especially proud to recall the museum's opening exhibitions, American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, which celebrated an unparalleled gift of over 400 major works of art to the museum's permanent collection from its long-time board president and chairman; Darger: the Henry Darger Collection at the American Folk Art Museum, an overview of the museum's recent acquisition by purchase and gift of a significant gathering of the Chicago artist's work, together with his entire archive; and American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, which demonstrated the impressive growth and development of the museum's collections. The inaugural shows were accompanied by exceptionally fine publications, notable as much for their exquisite graphic design as for their outstanding scholarship.

Spurred on by the international acclaim and by critical reviews that consistently give the museum the highest marks for its enhanced programs, exhibitions, publications, and collections, visitors are coming to the museum in record numbers. Among those in attendance have been many persons prominent in public life, including Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States. The museum has also welcomed thousands of new members. Without doubt, it has been a banner year.

Traditions generally take years to be established, but the new American Folk Art Museum clearly has achieved a reputation for excellence in the short time it has been open to the public. The same may be said of the museum's most important fund-raising event, The American Antiques Show (TAAS). Launched in January 2001, just one month after the museum opened, TAAS has become a widely anticipated event for collectors of Americana throughout the country. This is in large part due to the high level of quality associated with TAAS's impressive roster of participating exhibitors, as well as to the dedication of the museum's trustees and staff. Their commitment to professionalism in this museum-related event, and their goal to provide programming that underscores its educational nature have earned TAAS a special place among other arts and antiques fairs.

The dedication to quality and public service associated with The American Antiques Show is all the more remarkable given that so much was accomplished so soon after the opening of our new facilities on 53rd Street. It is a measure of the loyalty and generosity of TAAS's leadership, staff, and the team that they assembled that we were able to succeed last year and move forward with plans to produce TAAS on an annual basis. I also wish to express my deep and abiding gratitude to trustee Barry D. Briskin, who leads the charge as executive chair; his wife Edie, who serves side-by-side with him; trustee Joan Johnson, our executive co-chair; museum staff member and TAAS’s executive director, Alice Hoffman; and TAAS’s staff and associates.

The American Antiques Show brings together America's finest dealers in folk art and Americana for an annual celebration of the American spirit. Proceeds from all ticket sales directly support the museum and help underwrite the cost of its programs and services to the public. I thank the museum's friends, new and longstanding, for participating in TAAS and encourage you to take advantage of its varied menu of events. You not only will find a feast for the eyes, but also a superb opportunity to increase your knowledge and appreciation of American folk and decorative arts. I also look forward to the pleasure of seeing you at the museum frequently throughout this New Year.

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