PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A Lakota carving of a horse that seems to be dying of battle wounds, a signature piece held by the South Dakota State Historical Society, is about to hit the road.
The Horse Effigy dance stick will be included in an exhibit featuring American Indian art from the Great Plains that will be displayed over the two next years at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo.
Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, said the 3-foot-long wooden carving is believed to have been made in about 1870 by a Lakota artist or warrior as a tribute to a horse that died in battle. The carving, used in various dances, is so highly regarded that it serves as the society's logo.
Red paint, representing blood, seems to seep from wounds on the carving, which also features a real horsehair mane and tail.
"It looks like it's leaping and there's obviously blood coming from different spots on the body. Whether it was shot with bullets or arrows, we don't know," Vogt said. "Obviously, it's a horse that's in its last throes of life."
Gaylord Torrence, senior curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, said the horse carving will be part of a 140-piece exhibit that features objects from private and museum collections from North America and Europe. The exhibit, "Art of the Plains Indians," will feature some of the greatest icons of Native American art from a region stretching from the Mississippi River Valley to the Rocky Mountains and from Texas to Canada, he said.
Torrence, guest curator for the exhibit, said it will open in Paris in April 2014 at the musee du quai Branly, which features indigenous art from around the world. It will move to Kansas City in September 2014 and New York in March 2015. The exhibit will include items from before Europeans made contact with Native Americans in the region to the present day. Some items in the exhibit were collected by the Lewis and Clark expedition that explored the American West in 1804-1806, he said.
One of the most famous pieces will be the South Dakota horse carving, which gained fame in a 1976 exhibition that also traveled to Europe, Torrence said.
"In the world of American Indian art, all you have to do is talk about the famous horse effigy and everybody knows what you're talking about. It's a famous thing," Torrence said.
Vogt said South Dakota officials are a little nervous about having the carving leave the state. But he said the exhibition will gain international attention that could bring visitors to the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, where the carving is displayed in the American Indian section of the center's museum.
"We loan artifacts to other museums, but this is just very high profile and our signature piece. It's a big deal," Vogt said.
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