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A Gathering of Voices: Folk Art from the Judith Espinar and Tom Dillenberg Collection

July 10th, 2018

The exhibition A Gathering of Voices celebrates the promised gift to the Museum of International Folk Art of the collection of Judith Espinar and Tom Dillenberg. A founder of the International Folk Art Market and former owner of the famous Clay Angel shop in Santa Fe, Espinar has collected some of the world’s best folk art. The museum opens the exhibition Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. It runs through Aug. 25, 2019.

Comprising primarily ceramic traditions from Mexico, Spain, France, Hungary, Morocco and numerous other countries, the collection also includes rich holdings of New Mexico santos, Latin American retablos and metalwork, furniture and textiles from around the world. The exhibition brings together the various voices of international cultures and living traditions, through the vision of one collector.

“I love to travel, and nothing makes me happier than getting on a plane. But putting this collection together has been the richest journey of my life.  If this exhibition inspires others to collect that would be an inspiration to me.  I wonder: how many collectors would it take to save the world’s folk art traditions from extinction?” --- Judith Espinar

The unique installation of A Gathering of Voices reflects how Espinar has lived with folk art, animating the objects through groupings that guide the viewer to cross-cultural comparisons of certain motifs, forms or techniques. These “inhabited spaces,” from the arrangement of objects on the fireplace to a specially curated “tablescape” by Espinar, are recreated in the gallery. These domestic vignettes are complemented by deeper investigations of individual artists, their workshops, or the traditions they keep alive.

“Espinar’s Collection is transformational for the Museum of International Folk Art and enriches our museum with its careful curation and attention to the highest standards of craft, concept, and beauty. The exhibition will highlight Espinar’s impeccable eye as a collector” --- Khristaan Villela, Director, Museum of International Folk Art.  

“Every plate I own is like a book waiting to be read.  What was the artist thinking as he or she started to work? What were the limitations? What voices from the past are held in that piece, and what meaning do they have for us today?

When we support living artists, we are honoring the voices of all those makers who came before them.  We are in a very real way keeping those voices alive in today’s world.  This is what drives my collecting.  Collecting is not just accumulating things…it is accumulating stories, experiences of the people we meet and the context of the artwork” -- Judith Espinar



Judith Espinar was one of the co-founders of the International Folk Art Market, which was established in 2004 and is today the largest event of its kind focused on the work of master folk artists. She previously worked in the fashion industry in New York for more than 30 years, including serving as fashion director of Gimbels East NYC, Fashion Director of Menswear for all Gimbels stores, Director of Fashion Information for Butterick Fashion, editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns International, Director of Evan Picone Design Studio, and VIP Design Director of Murjani International. Espinar served on the board of Aid to Artisans, was Project Advisor-Ceramics for USAID sponsored research on “Marketing Viability of Hungarian Craft Industries,” and was one of three Project Directors for the first two years of UNESCO-sponsored “Lead-Free Low Fire Pottery Project” in Mexico. She was previously the owner of The Clay Angel, for years one of Santa Fe’s favorite shops to buy the highest quality folk art and furnishings.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART Founded in 1953 by Florence Dibell Bartlett, the Museum of International Folk Art’s mission is to foster understanding of the traditional arts to illuminate human creativity and shape a humane world. The museum holds the world’s largest international folk art collection of more than 150,000 objects from six continents and over 150 nations, representing a broad range of global artists whose artistic expressions make Santa Fe an international crossroads of culture. For many visitors, fascination with folk art begins upon seeing the whimsical toys and traditional objects within the Girard Collection. For others, the international textiles, ceramics, carvings and other cultural treasures in the Neutrogena Collection provide the allure. The museum’s historic and contemporary Latino and Hispano folk art collections, spanning the Spanish Colonial period to modern-day New Mexico, reflect how artists respond to their time and place in ways both delightful and sobering. In 2010, the museum opened the Mark Naylor and Dale Gunn Gallery of Conscience, where exhibitions encourage visitors to exchange ideas on complex issues of human rights and social justice.

A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. 706 Camino Lejo, on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, NM 87505. (505) 476-1200. Hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April. Closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Events, news releases and images about activities at the Museum of International Folk Art and other divisions in the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at

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2MOIFA_Espinar_05: New Mexico and Mexican santos, including James Córdova, Frank L. Garcia, Anita Romero Jones and Felix López.

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