African Art: Spotlight on Art Museums, Part 6

African Art: Spotlight on Art Museums, Part 6

Posted in Art Market

Western Europe and North America are still a good place to view traditional and contemporary African art. Indeed, museums outside Africa have the resources and the expertise to preserve and safeguard African art. The reality is that some museums in Africa have been subject to lootings due to war or political instability. So, governments have more pressing needs than the task of art preservation and presentation. We end our review of African art museums with five major museums outside Africa.

National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., United States

The National Museum of African Art was established as a private museum in 1964. It officially joined the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in 1979. The National Museum of African Art is the first museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the collection, presentation, preservation, and investigation of the art and culture of Africa. The museum has exhibition rooms, educational facilities, a laboratory, a scholarly library, and photo archives. It houses the largest collection of traditional, modern, and contemporary African art in the United States, including more than 9,000 objects and 300,000 photographs. The museum collects items for both their traditional and aesthetic uses in different art forms including paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, and video art. The National Museum of African Art hosts a couple of temporary exhibitions annually as well as special exhibitions. In addition to its exhibitions, the museum offers a program which consists of a large variety of lectures, public discussions, film screenings, musical performances and workshops. The events are supplemented by educational programs and activities in cooperation with schools and the African embassies.

Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, United States

The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded in 1968 by a group of artists, philanthropists, and community activists who supports artists and arts education. The museum is internationally renowned for its central role in promoting the works of artists of African descent. A significant component of the museum’s work is its residency program. Since its inception, the program has supported many emerging artists who are today well-known, including Chakaia Booker, David Hammons, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley. The Studio Museum does not have a permanent exhibition of work from its collection, but frequently shows selections from artists in the collection, as well as many former artists in residence, in temporary exhibitions. In addition to supporting artists of African descent and providing a dynamic setting for the exchange of ideas about art and society, the museum also maintains an archive of the history of Harlem. The museum also publishes a biannual magazine, exhibition catalogues and books, and runs a lively program of readings, lectures, discussions, performances, and concerts.

The Africa Center, New York, United States

The Africa Center, formerly known as The Museum for African Art, was first opened to the public in 1984. The Museum is internationally acknowledged as a preeminent organizer of exhibitions and publications related to historical and contemporary African art, with programs that are as diverse as the continent itself. Spanning culture, policy and business, The Africa Center aims to transform the international understanding of Africa and promote direct engagement between African artists, business leaders and civil society and their counterparts from the United States and beyond. The exhibitions are widely recognized for pioneering the way African art is seen and understood, presenting insightful perspectives on the rich diversity of African art and cultures. The museum has organized nearly 70 exhibitions that have been shown nationally and internationally, bringing the art and cultures of Africa to a wide array of audiences worldwide. The most well-known group exhibitions are Art/Artifact: African Art in Anthropology Collections (1988), Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art (1994), and Africa Explores: 20th-Century African Art (1991).

British Museum, London, United Kingdom

The British Museum was established in 1753, based on the collections of the physician Sir Hans Sloane, and was inaugurated six years later. That collection has gradually expanded over the following centuries, due to the territorial evolution of the British Empire around the world, resulting in the creation of several branch institutions. With more than 8 million works originating from all continents, the permanent collection is currently among the largest in the world, documenting the human history and culture over time and place. The Museum’s collection includes over 300,000 items from Africa – one third of which comes from Ancient Egypt representing the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The collection encompasses archaeological, traditional, and contemporary art material, and is spanned in several exhibition rooms of which a large number is dedicated to the Ancient Egypt objects. The British Museum has organized a variety of international exhibitions on African art, often presenting key objects from its collection. The museum has also established a partnership with several African museums in order to share expertise on collection care, display, and conservation.

Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France

Located in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du quai Branly was opened to the public in 2006. The building was designed by the well-known architect Jean Nouvel with its lush plant wall created by the botanist Patrick Blanc. The museum focuses on non-European cultures and brings together the collections of the now-closed Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie and those of the ethnographic laboratory of the Musée de l'Homme, plus ten thousand recently acquired objects. With a rich collection of 300,000 objects and 700,000 photographs, as well as thousands of documents, musical instruments, pieces of textile and clothing, the museum takes visitors on a fascinating voyage of discovery into the cultures of distant lands across the centuries. The temporary exhibitions at the Musée du quai Branly offer a highly original perspective on the cultures that make up their themes such as man's relationship with the invisible, powerful figures, the life cycle, trade and cultural exchanges, and man's relationship with the natural environment. They are offset against contemporary Western civilization to make them more familiar and accessible, while preserving the mystical aspect that makes them endlessly fascinating.


Posted in Art Market  |  May 27, 2017