Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of Bering Strait

Okvik/OBS I: Mask-like ornament. Walrus ivory, w. 9.8 cm. Private Collection, New York. Photo Bruce M. White

Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of Bering Strait is a major exhibition that brings to light the artistry and life practices of the hunters who worked across two millennia in what are now the American and Russian sides of Bering Strait. The exhibition offers the opportunity to discover a little-known aspect of the art of the ancient Americas and represents a groundbreaking partnership between one of the world’s great research universities and the Native peoples of the Bering Strait region.

Gifts from the Ancestors features nearly 200 of the finest works of walrus ivory carving drawn from the Museum’s own holdings along with loans from more than twenty public and private collections around the globe, including rare examples from recent Russian excavations at Ekven, Chukotka, which will be exhibited for the first time in North America. In addition, works by award-winning contemporary artist and St. Lawrence Islander Susie Silook and master carvers Sergei Tegryl’kut and Mikhail Leyviteu from Chukotka, Russia, will be presented to bridge past and present and reveal how today’s ivory artists continue to be inspired by ancient forms and motifs and the millennia-old relationships among people, animals, and the environment.