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A Unique Legacy

Apartamento Magazine explores the Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

Alexander Girard began collecting folk art in the 1930s and amassed a collection of over 106,000 objects in his lifetime. In 1978, the Girard Foundation donated the collection to the state of New Mexico—where it is now displayed and stored at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

Sometimes the best things in life happen by chance. Our trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was really one of those moments, one in which you really didn’t know what you were about to experience but you could sense that it would remain with you forever. Early last year, an unplanned encounter in Milan with Kori Girard, Alexander Girard’s grandson, sparked our curiosity to find out more about the world of Girard, his work, and the legacy he left behind. So last December, we embarked on a two day trip—a total of 40 hours divided over six aeroplanes, TSA security queue nightmares, snowstorms, and an unparalleled willingness to be beyond jet-lagged—to meet Kori, his sister Aleishall, and their parents Marshall and Alexis, in Santa Fe. We spent time together at their family home, visited Marshall’s workshop and personal storage, explored the Girard Wing and the underground archives at the Museum of International Folk Art, ate together at The Compound Restaurant, and took in the surrounding nature. It was a mind-blowing experience.

The images that follow are a special selection of photographs that complement "The Girards: A unique legacy across three generations" published in Apartamento Magazine issue #13. They were taken as we followed Marshall, Kori, and Aleishall in the Girard Wing and archives at the Museum of International Folk Art and explored the more than 106,000 objects selected and arranged by Alexander Girard.

Elisabeth Alley has been giving tours of the Girard exhibition, "Multiple Visions: A Common Bond" since it opened in 1983. She made her dress from a vintage Girard textile. Elisabeth Alley has been giving tours of the Girard exhibition, "Multiple Visions: A Common Bond" since it opened in 1983. She made her dress from a vintage Girard textile.
Every July, Milner Plaza plays host to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market—with over 60 countries represented. Every July, Milner Plaza plays host to the Santa Fe International Folk Art
Market—with over 60 countries represented.

Vintage masks from Mexico are carefully cataloged and stored in the museum's basement. Vintage masks from Mexico are carefully cataloged and stored in the museum's basement.
Girard designed every aspect of the museum's exhibition—from the placement of the smallest object, to the vignettes and cases, to the building itself. Girard designed every aspect of the museum's exhibition—from the placement of the smallest
object, to the vignettes and cases, to the building itself.

A table setting of plastic foods demonstrates Girard's customary wit. Although the objects come from all over the world, the museum's vignettes are pure Girard. A table setting of plastic foods demonstrates Girard's customary wit. Although the objects come from all over the world, the museum's vignettes are pure Girard.
Rare and valuable Native American artifacts collected by Girard—such as these Hopi beadwork pieces—are displayed. Rare and valuable Native American artifacts collected by Girard—such as these Hopi beadwork pieces—are displayed.

"I believe we should preserve evidence of the past, not as a pattern for sentimental imitation, but as nourishment for the creative spirit of the present."

Alexander Girard, 1968
The Magic of a People

None of the pieces in the museum are labeled. Objects from diverse cultures are displayed together to demonstrate that there is only one mankind. None of the pieces in the museum are labeled. Objects from diverse cultures are displayed together to demonstrate that there is only one mankind.
Girard played with paper theaters like this one from Great Britain when he was a child. It could begin to explain his penchant for creating worlds within worlds. Girard played with paper theaters like this one from Great Britain when he was a child. It could begin to explain his penchant for creating worlds within worlds.

The objects were not designed for deep contemplation but rather as simple expressions of delight, amusement or reverence. They were created by the spirit of the craftsman. Invented and fashioned by an individual for the enjoyment of others.

Alexander Girard, 1963
Some Notes on the Folk Art in the Herman Miller Collection

Religious and spiritual iconography and articfacts figure heavily in the display. A musical procession unites performers from various cultures. Religious and spiritual iconography and articfacts figure heavily in the display. A musical procession unites performers from various cultures.

The exhibit is interactive at every level—and for every age. Girard's hand is evident in every detail. The exhibit is interactive at every level—and for every age. Girard's hand is evident in every detail.

Marshall, Girard's son, and his children Aleishall Girard Maxon and Kori Girard carry the Girard legacy into the present. Marshall, Girard's son, and his children Aleishall Girard Maxon and Kori Girard carry the Girard legacy into the present.

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