Yup’ik masks, Matisse, and more in Phoenix

There is still a little time to see Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit, a stunning exhibit of historic Alaskan Yup’ik masks and Matisse drawings influenced by them, at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. But there isn’t much time, with the show closing the first week of February.

Simple black and white lithograph of an "Eskimo" by Henri MatisseThis large exhibit brings together a set of Matisse drawings representing Arctic people and inspired by art, photographs, and the journals of European Arctic explorers. But the bulk of the exhibit is given over to a stunning collection of Yup’ik masks.

Yup’ik masks were very popular among the Surrealist art community. Matisse’s son-in-law owned several and the exhibit includes masks that Matisse is known to have seen.

For this exhibit, the Heard Museum not only brought together masks that may have influenced Matisse, but created a whole exhibit focused on Yup’ik masks.

Most impressively, they have reunited masks from across the USA and Europe that were created for use in pairs or groupings, but separated after arriving in the south.

Once Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit closes, these masks will again return to the disparate public and private collections that hold them.


Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit can be seen at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, through February 3, 2019.

There is also a tiny exhibit of Arctic art from Alaska and Canada on display at the Heard during the same time period.

I have a more complete review of the exhibit, with more pictures of these masks, here.

Cindy Carlsson