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      Contemporary Art

      Today’s art helps us imagine the future. That's been true since PEM’s founders first formed the collection in 1799.

      Contemporary Art

      Contemporary artists help us connect history to lived experience so we can imagine a better future.

      We like to say that PEM’s collection has always been contemporary, as the museum’s founders – the first global entrepreneurs in the United States – collected the art, culture and scientific discoveries of their day.

      The museum hired its inaugural curator of contemporary art in 2008. In 2013, that role was retitled the “curator of the present tense.” Through this position, PEM seeks to integrate contemporary art across its collections and work with curators across departments to collaborate with living artists.

      Highlights from this collection

      Immanence (detail), 2015
      Immanence (detail), 2015

      Yoan Capote (Born 1977, Cuba)

      Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Staircase and Galleries (detail), 2011-12

      ON VIEW

      Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Staircase and Galleries (detail), 2011-12

      Michael Lin (b. 1964, Japan)

      On view in the stairway of the new wing.

      Pretty Pretty 10, 2021
      Pretty Pretty 10, 2021

      Gio Swaby (b. 1991, The Bahamas)

      Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir of the Spirits (installation view), 2015

      ON VIEW

      Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir of the Spirits (installation view), 2015

      Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (b. 1959, Cuba)

      On view in the American Art Gallery.

      Figurehead 2.0, 2019
      Figurehead 2.0, 2019

      Charles Sandison (b. 1969, England)

      Immanence (detail), 2015
      Immanence (detail), 2015

      Yoan Capote (Born 1977, Cuba), Immanence (detail), 2015. Door hinges, wood doors, and metal armature. Museum purchase, made possible by Dick and Deborah Carlson, Mark and Meg du Four, Jim and Mary Lou Hawkes, Andrew and Erin Heiskell, Kate and Ford O’Neil, Olivia Parker, Abby and Gene Record, Katharine Redmond, Molly and Patrick Ryan, and Christina and Ralph Sweetland. 2017.36.1.

      Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Staircase and Galleries (detail), 2011-12
      Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Staircase and Galleries (detail), 2011-12

      Michael Lin (b. 1964, Japan), Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon Staircase and Galleries (detail), 2011-12. Acrylic paint. 22.03.12-22.03.13. Commission, 2012. Museum purchase, by exchange. 2016.76.1-3

      On view in the stairway of the new wing.

      Pretty Pretty 10, 2021
      Pretty Pretty 10, 2021

      Gio Swaby (b. 1991, The Bahamas), Pretty Pretty 10, 2021. Thread, machine-stitched on reverse of canvas with fabric appliqué. Museum purchase, by exchange 2022.26.1 © Gio Swaby Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.

      Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir of the Spirits (installation view), 2015
      Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir of the Spirits (installation view), 2015

      Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (b. 1959, Cuba), Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir of the Spirits (installation view), 2015. Blown glass, cast glass, steel, cast resin, silicone, acrylic, polyvinyl chloride tubing, and water and rum essence, with multichannel sound installation. Commission, 2015. Museum purchase, made possible by the Nancy B. Tieken Memorial Fund and the Elizabeth Rogers Fund. 2015.46.3. Photo by Peter Vanderwarker.

      On view in the American Art Gallery.

      Figurehead 2.0, 2019
      Figurehead 2.0, 2019

      Charles Sandison (b. 1969, England), Figurehead 2.0, 2019. Computer-generated data projection. Commissioned by the Peabody Essex Museum in 2010 and reiterated in 2019. Museum purchase, made possible by Susan Esco Chandler and Alfred D. Chandler, Nancy B. Teiken, Dan Elias and Karen Keane, and the Anna Pingree Phillips Fund. 2011.23.1.

      Loans and acquisitions

      Loans and acquisitions

      PEM is committed to providing the broadest possible access to its collection through the loan of objects for educational and scholarly purposes. Learn how to request a loan from the museum’s collection.

      Keep exploring

      Exhibition

      American Decorative Arts

      Ongoing

      PEMcast

      PEMcast 12: Immersive experiences | Part 3

      8 min read