Skip to Content


Welcome to the Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts

rtc shape

All my life I've relied on this measured process of aesthetic absorption, whether the work is a Renaissance plaquette or a Native American wearing blanket. It involves returning and again to the individual work of art. I revisit and bear constantly in mind the objects of my own collection, however large or small, to gain new insights. They are not trophies but instruments of passion, with the power to unexpectedly reveal mysteries. -Ralph T. Coe, 2003.


Ralph T. Coe, known as Ted to his family and friends, was not only an early champion of North American Native Art, but also one of the foremost authorities in the field. His interests were vast and he felt if one sincerely took the time to look at objects, they would "draw us into the circle." His passion for knowledge is evident in the varied collections he left behind and the legacy he left by creating a foundation to continue his work and vision.

In 1976, Coe curated the groundbreaking exhibition Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Art at the Hayward Gallery in London and later at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO. Sacred Circles focused visitors on the aesthetic pleasures and beauty of Native art, replacing the prevailing ethnographic museum viewpoint of the day. Following Sacred Circles, Coe went on to curate Lost and Foundation Traditions: Native American Art, 1965-1985 in 1986, organized by The American Federation of Arts and travelled extensively around the United States. Coe's last exhibition was The Responsive Eye: Ralph T. Coe and the Collecting of American Indian Art in 2003 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Over his lifetime Coe's collecting was consistently informed by his appreciation of beauty and finding it in the most functional to elaborate objects. He remained innately focused on education--about aesthetics and its production and appreciation, as well as the cultures and people who made and used the objects; creating a continuing legacy embracing worlds not always known or understood for future generations to respond to. Located in Santa Fe, the Ralph T. Coe Foundation's purpose is to continue this legacy and mindful appreciation of the world's indigenous arts.

For more information about our mission and donations please click here.


website design by studio x santa fe | a member of santa fe.net