Faith is common to all human societies. By focusing on the material artifacts produced with the intention of being offered as acts of faith, Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place, on view at Bard Graduate Center in New York City from September 14, 2018 through January 6, 2019, will provide a perspective on why humans across the globe create these material objects.

Examining votive objects—often created to fulfill a vow or as a pledge and placed at a sacred space or site of communal memory—Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place will look at the things humans choose to offer in their votive transactions and will strive to uncover the most intimate moments in the lives of humans, revealing how our dreams and hopes, as well as our fears and anxieties, find form in votive offerings.

A portion of the exhibition will center on the creation of the votive object from its moment of inception through its construction and memorialization. The place of ephemeral objects, such as food and candles, will also be examined.

Encompassing exquisite works of art as well as those of humble origin crafted from modest material, more than 300 objects dating from 2000 BC to the twenty-first century will be on display. Powerful works from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, representing the majority of world religions, will expose the global nature of votive practices and the profoundly personal nature behind their creation.

Featured works include more than one hundred votive objects from the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, which are unique to the folklore of European culture; a rare ancient anatomical votive from the Louvre; one of the earliest dated votive panel paintings from the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, and loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Contemporary religious and secular objects will include rare votive paintings made by Mexican migrant workers from the Durand-Arias Collection and objects left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, such as army-issue woolen gloves, food rations, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.


Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place is curated by Ittai Weinryb, Associate Professor, Bard Graduate Center, with Marianne Lamonaca, Chief Curator, and Caroline Hannah, Associate Curator, Bard Graduate Center Gallery.

A richly illustrated catalogue edited by Ittai Weinryb and published by Bard Graduate Center Gallery and Yale University Press will accompany the exhibition. Essays will explore a wide spectrum of themes, time periods, and cultures. In addition to Weinryb, authors include Sheila Blair, Suzanne Preston Blier, Jaś Elsner, Diana Fane, John Guy, Fredrika Jacobs, Mitchell Merback, David Morgan, Verity Platt, Mechtild Widrich, and Christopher S. Wood. It will be available in the Gallery and at store.bgc.bard.edu.