Image: Hank Willis Thomas, History of the Conquest, 2017. Bronze. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Ben Foster in memory of Raye B. Foster, 2021.42.

McNay Art Museum Acquires Monumental Bronze Sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas

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San Antonio, TX (July 11, 2022) – Snails are known for their leisurely pace, but the newest addition to the McNay Art Museum’s outdoor sculpture collection is rapidly becoming a visitor favorite. History of the Conquest by Hank Willis Thomas features a child holding a bow and reins while riding an ornately decorated snail. Installed on the Mays Family Park near the Russell Hill Rogers Sculpture Gateway, the Museum’s new acquisition stands just over seven feet tall.

History of the Conquest references a German Baroque sculpture currently in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The figure personifies Africa—the source of the nautilus shell, which was harvested in copious quantities off the eastern coast of the continent. Thomas’ sculpture is a captivating critique of the prejudiced, historical depictions of people of African descent. By enlarging the Wadsworth Atheneum’s 17th-century sculpture to a grand scale and interpreting it in bronze, the artist simultaneously draws attention to past representations and reclaims them.

“The McNay is committed to expanding its collection of artworks by contemporary artists of color—indoors and outdoors,” said René Paul Barilleaux, Head of Curatorial Affairs. “Thanks to very generous support in memory of beloved McNay supporter, Raye B. Foster, we are able to advance that Museum-wide goal with our first work in any medium by Hank Willis Thomas.”

Foster was a member of the McNay’s Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2009, serving as Board President from 2005 to 2007 during construction of the Jane & Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions. In addition, she spent many years as a McNay docent and served as docent co-chair in 2001, when the National Docent Symposium met in San Antonio.

About the artist

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist who works across media to address themes related to identity, social justice, consumerism, the media, and popular culture. Through his monumental sculptures and public installations, Thomas frequently references history and examines how the past influences current day perceptions and politics.

Thomas has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including International Center of Photography, Public Art Fund, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Musée du quai Branly, and Cleveland Museum of Art, among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, High Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts.


About McNay Art Museum

The McNay Art Museum engages a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts. Built in the 1920s by artist and educator Marion Koogler McNay, the Spanish Colonial Revival residence became the site of Texas’s first modern art museum when it opened in 1954. Today, 200,000 visitors a year enjoy works by modern masters including Deborah Butterfield, Margarita Cabrera, Paul Gauguin, Vanessa German, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Joan Mitchell, Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Deborah Roberts. The 25 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds include sculptures by Willie Cole, Robert Indiana, Luis A. Jiménez Jr., Alejandro Martín, George Rickey, Joel Shapiro, Kiki Smith, Tom Wesselmann, and more.

The McNay is open Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m.