It brings those works into greater, meaningful art historical conversations and critiques previous ways that encyclopedic museums and the field of art have or have not included them.
The exhibition’s unique transcultural approach pairs diverse African works across mediums with objects from around the world. By considering how shared themes and ideas—such as faith, origins, modernism, and portraiture—developed independently in different parts of the globe, it offers new theoretical models for discussing African arts in relation to non-African arts. Moving beyond the story of European modernists’ so-called “discovery” of African arts, it fills in the blanks in decades of art history textbooks (as shown by examples on view).
African Arts—Global Conversations presents thirty-three works, including twenty by African artists. On view are new acquisitions and never-before-exhibited objects, among others, in a first-floor introductory gallery and also in groupings throughout the Museum. Highlights include a celebrated eighteenth-century Kuba sculpture, fourteenth- to sixteenth-century Ethiopian Orthodox processional crosses, and a mid-twentieth-century Sierra Leonean Ordehlay or Jollay society mask. Also featured are recent works by Atta Kwami, Ranti Bam, Magdalene Odundo OBE, and Taiye Idahor, which are paired with artworks by Māori, Seminole, Spanish, American, Huastec, and Korean artists.