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James Hampton’s Throne

James Hampton’s The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennium General Assembly
In the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., United States

Hampton (1909-1964) began his life in South Carolina and moved to Washington, D.C. when he was nineteen years old. After serving in the U.S. Army for several years, he found work as a janitor for the General Services Administration.

In 1931, Hampton believed he began to receive visions from God. Based on these visions, he started to create objects out of found materials, including wood, cardboard, paper, light bulbs, mirror, electrical cables, etc. Hampton intended his work to honor Christ’s eventual return and granted himself the title “Director, Special Projects for the State of Eternity.”

After working in secret almost every day for over fourteen years. His project ultimately consisted of a seven-foot tall throne surrounded by nearly 180 other objects, all decorated with foil and purple paper. Hampton’s work also includes a notebook mostly written in a language system that has not yet been deciphered.

After Hampton’s death, his work was found in the rented garage where he had constructed it. It was anonymously donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1970. This short video from the Smithsonian highlights the artwork.

James Hampton’s name can be found in the mosaic in the middle gallery. “Director of Special Projects for the State of Eternity” can also be seen on one of the staircases in the outdoor sculpture garden at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Resources:
Biography and photos
Video  “James Hampton’s The Throne of the Third Heaven,” part of American Art Moments, by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (5:45 minutes, 2021)

Top & Button Photo Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum