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, provides 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 looks at the things humans choose to offer in their votive transactions and strives 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.

Encompassing exquisite works of art as well as items of humble origin crafted from modest material, more than 300 objects dating from 2000 BC to the twenty-first century are on display. Powerful works from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, representing the majorworld religions, exposes 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; and artworks from across the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Contemporary religious and secular objects include Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree, 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 an army-issue woolen glove, 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 accompanies the exhibition. Essays 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 is available in the Gallery and at store.bgc.bard.edu.