Exhibits of Ethnic Art

FEA’s private Facebook group posts notices of exhibits and an eclectic stream of local and global ethnic art news. Members can ask to join the Facebook group by emailing feasfbay@yahoo.com.

A snapshot in time of exhibits:

ShareVisions From the Forests: Surveys the Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone
September 20, 2014 – February 8, 2015
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

collected by William “Bill” Siegmann (1943–2011), a former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum who lived and worked in Liberia between 1965 and 1987

. . . an excellent overview of the region’s traditional art forms: masks and other artworks used by men’s and women’s initiation associations; jewelry and prestige objects of cast brass, ivory, and horn; small stone figures from the 15th to 19th centuries; and woven and dyed textiles. The exhibition emphasizes the cultural context of these artworks, identifying artists or workshops whenever possible. This reveals the deeply personal and scholarly connections forged by Siegmann during his decades of research on the arts and cultures of this region.


Images of Power: Rulership in the Grasslands of Cameroon
November 25, 2014 – May 31, 2015
Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University, RI

In the northwest grasslands of Cameroon, hundreds of independent kingdoms are ruled by monarchs called fons. These political and spiritual leaders create and administer laws, adjudicate in legal disputes, and act as vessels for the life energy of the kingdom’s ancestors. “Images of Power” draws upon the Haffenreffer Museum’s rich Cameroonian collections to examine the decorative arts of the fon’s palace. From the stools on which he sits, to his drinking gourds, to the frames of the palace windows, every image and symbol serves to extol his power and prestige. Come learn how, despite the disruption of colonial and globalizing forces, potent traditional symbols like the fierce leopard and wise spider continue to empower modern kings. Curated by the Haffenreffer Museum Student Group.


Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia
October 12, 2014- January 4, 2015
Saint Louis Art Museum

In life, they were the boldest warriors, wisest leaders, and daring navigators who led their people over thousands of miles of open sea. After death, they became protectors and providers; bringers of harvest and guardians in war. They were Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia.

Now, for a limited time, the world’s most important Polynesian sculptures come to the Saint Louis Art Museum, the sole North American venue for a groundbreaking exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Australia.

Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia explores in unprecedented depth the relationship between art objects and Polynesian concepts of atua—gods, ancestors, and spirit beings that are fundamental to the Polynesian cosmos. This exhibition examines these extraordinary sculptures as embodiments of atua, and considers the layered meanings underlying their creation.

Organized geographically, Atua leads visitors across the vast span of Polynesian islands. Across this great stretch, atua—both conceptual and sculptural—have been essential to the lives of individuals and communities.

With the arrival of missionaries, artworks associated with atua often were destroyed or exported to the West as souvenirs of conversion and colonialism. Among those sculptures that did survive this period, the most powerful and celebrated objects are presented in Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia.


African Cosmos: Stellar Arts
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
August 24, 2014–November 30, 2014

African Cosmos: Stellar Arts is the first major exhibition to explore the historical legacy of African cultural astronomy and its intersection with traditional and contemporary African arts. For millennia, Africans have gazed upon the celestial firmament, made sense of the heavenly bodies above them, and used their observations to chart movements through the physical environment and regulate agricultural and ritual calendars. The exhibition considers how the sun, moon and stars, as well as celestial phenomena such as lightning and rainbows, inspire African arts from ancient times to the present. An outstanding selection of work includes ancient Egyptian sculpture, traditional Dogon masks of Mali, Yoruba divination instruments from Nigeria, and creations by contemporary South African artists.


The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth + Sky
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
September 19, 2014–January 11, 2015

This groundbreaking exhibition will unite the Plains Indian masterworks found in European and North American collections, from pre-contact to contemporary, ranging from a 2,000-year-old Human Effigy stone pipe to 18th-century painted robes to a 2011 beaded adaptation of designer shoes.
The distinct Plains aesthetic—singular, ephemeral and materially rich—will be revealed through an array of forms and media: painting and drawing; sculptural works in stone, wood, antler and shell; porcupine quill and glass bead embroidery; feather work; painted robes depicting figures and geometric shapes; richly ornamented clothing; composite works; and ceremonial objects.

Together the 140 works will reveal the accomplishments of Plains Indian artists, not only as the makers of objects that sustain tradition and embody change, but as the bearers of individual creative expression and innovation. Many nations are represented—Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Mesquakie, Kansa and others. Objects will travel from France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and the United States.


Fangs, Feathers, and Fins: Sacred Creatures in Ancient American Art
Oct 16, 2014 – Jan 25, 2015
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

People have always been fascinated by animals. In the ancient Americas, wildlife such as jaguars and killer whales became symbols of divinity and rulership. Artworks made in the images of these creatures played significant roles in religion and society.

The inventive ways in which animals were depicted in art provide a window into the beliefs and practices of long-gone cultures that never developed written language and left few traces other than their art. The Museum’s significant Pre-Columbian collection comprises remarkable examples, which come together thematically for the first time in the exhibition Fangs, Feathers, and Fins: Sacred Creatures in Ancient American Art.

More than 200 objects, spanning nearly 5,000 years, explore the significance that different animals held, demonstrating how the peoples of the ancient Americas viewed themselves and the world around them. Among the works on view are evocative ceramic vessels and stone monuments made by the Maya and Olmec of ancient Mexico, a feather tunic from the Nasca people of Peru, and intricate gold ornaments from the Tairona culture of Colombia.


Kongo across the Waters
October 25, 2014 – January 25, 2015
Princeton University Art Museum, NJ

Kongo across the Waters examines 500 years of cultural exchange between the Kongo, Europe, and the United States, showing the rise of Kongo as a major Atlantic presence and the transmission of Kongo culture through the transatlantic slave trade into American art.

Drawing from the incomparable collections of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, including masterpieces that have never before been seen in the United States, this groundbreaking exhibition investigates how the Kingdom of Kongo in West Central Africa evolved over five centuries and contributed to the cultural life of enslaved Africans and their descendants in North America. Manuscripts, maps, engravings, photographs, and videos provide contextual information, and the accompanying 448-page catalog further explores the art of the Kongo and of the Kongo diaspora.


Art in Real Life: Traditional African Art from the Lowe Art Museum
November 8, 2014 – January 11, 2015
Lowe Art Museum, Miami, FL

“African artists producing “traditional” works strive to balance community values with individual success. Art in Real Life: Traditional African Art from the Lowe Art Museum explores the inherent tensions of this reality, which is necessarily impacted by pressures from a broad range of sectors, including the technological, geo-political, ecological, and economic. This exhibition, which is drawn from the Lowe Art Museum’s remarkable permanent collection, illustrates the continuing creativity and inventiveness of African artists in the face of an increasingly complex world.

Traditional African art is an elastic genre: It is not restricted to ritual concerns or the day-to-day needs of rural villages. Rather it reflects any number of phenomena, including cultural and religious diversity, urbanization, economic change, tourism, and globalization. Art in contemporary Africa embraces a multitude of expressive modalities and techniques from activities geared toward the tourist market (including modified versions of ancestral dances performed for foreign visitors and art created specifically for export) to billboards, shop signs, and even graffiti intended for domestic use and consumption. Indeed, if you were to visit the African Continent today, you would find family heirlooms and generational treasures as well as the latest “hot” commodities from overseas. The range of materials employed in cultural production is equally vast: wood, textiles, pottery, cast brass, cutout sheet metal, repurposed rubber and linoleum (to name only the most common); all are routinely used in the service of creative expression in today’s Africa.

As traditional African art has grown in popularity among collectors and connoisseurs around the world, the names of individual artists have become increasingly well known and their works more frequently admitted into the Western world’s conception of “Art.” Yet these same artists (who are intensely practical and understand the importance of creating works with market appeal) continue to make work that remains intimately connected to the vibrant tradition of art objects created specifically for ritual and ceremonial use. Their creations embody an inherent desire to express oneself while also addressing more prosaic needs, such as supporting one’s family. It is these works, and the creative processes and traditions associated with them, that are the subject of Art in Real Life.”


Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art from the Weisel Family Collection
May 3, 2014 – January 4, 2015
de Young Museum, San Francisco

Lines on the Horizon highlights Native American art from the collection of the Thomas W. Weisel Family. Spanning more than 1,000 years of artistic creativity, the exhibition will focus on the indigenous arts of the American Southwest, featuring 11th-century Mimbres ceramics alongside masterful classic Navajo weavings from the mid to late 19th century and 20th-century works by recognized artists such as the ceramicist Nampeyo of Hano Pueblo. Singular pieces from the Northwest Coast and the first Plains ledger drawings to enter the permanent collection will also be shown. The artworks, carefully chosen over 30 years of collecting, reflect an emerging sense that, through close visual and technical analysis, it may be possible to identify the styles of specific individuals who created these diverse works. Even if we may never know their names, we can still celebrate their works of art as expressions of personal and communal worldviews.

Gown of Cloud & Rainbow: Miao Costumes & Jewelry from China
June 1, 2013 – February 22, 2015
Minneapolis Institute of Arts

In China, a beautiful piece of clothing has often been called a “gown of cloud and rainbow,” and this phrase aptly describes the magnificent costumes and jewelry of the Miao people of China, mostly from the Guizhou/Yunnan plateau.

Miao artists are famous for their embroidery skills and indigo dyeing techniques. With a collection of some 1,200 Miao textiles and 450 pieces of jewelry, the museum now presents a stunning, choice selection.
Weaver’s Stories from Island Southeast Asia
January 31 – March 29, 2015

Lowe Art Museum, Miami, FL

In the Southeast Asian archipelago, making cloth is regarded as the archetypal form of women’s work and creativity. Traditionally, women learned the textile arts — typically weaving or making batik — before they were eligible for marriage. Later in life, excelling in making cloth and especially in mastering complex natural-dye processes was regarded as the highest measure of a woman’s achievement. In Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, weavers and batik artists speak for themselves in videos produced at eight sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and East Timor. What motivates women to create new patterns? How do they adjust to changing social and economic situations?


A Sense of Place: African Interiors
Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL

In Western art museums, African objects are placed on pristine pedestals, under glass, and as far from their places of origin as possible. Ceramic pots, made for bringing water from a stream and placed in the kitchen, posts that once graced a palace courtyard where kings were enthroned, carved figures in sacred shrines visible only to priests, headrests that supported a nomadic herder’s head as he slept in the bush—these are examples of the lives objects lived before they entered museum collections, and of the spaces in which they were most visible to those who created, used and appreciated them. These contexts are what you cannot see in entirety in a museum display.

This exhibition attempts to restore a sense of the spaces some objects in the museum’s collection inhabited originally. Architecture and the relationship between spaces inhabited by people and the objects in those spaces is a major theme of this exhibition. In many instances, there is an obvious resonance between the object and the building that houses it. A clay pot stacked against the wall of a house may have the shape and color of the house walls, and have been made by the same woman’s hands that smoothed the walls with adobe. An intricately made basket may have been made by the same hand and with the same type of reed that was used to make vibrantly patterned wall coverings in a home. A post in a community meeting house may bear the marks of stress from roof beams, and a glossy patina where hands touched it in passing. In these scenarios, objects embody the people and the characteristics of the spaces around them.

In many exhibitions, we are left to our own imaginings about the course that an object has taken from the time it was made to its placement in a particular environment where it fulfilled its intended purpose. In this exhibition, photographs have been paired with objects to provide a glimpse of their previous existence in African workshops, homes, shrines, churches, palaces, communal spaces, and the natural environment. Most objects are classified as either historical or traditional, meaning they came from a past that may seem irrelevant and inaccessible to Western contemporary culture. However, many of the photographs reveal that the places they came from– homes, churches or shrines– still exist. And, these spaces continue to be changed by the people who inhabit them, who create and live among the objects seen here in the museum. Notably, many of the same types of artworks in the exhibition are occupying these spaces but they have been modified, by a new and different aesthetic. Even, so they persist in recognizable forms.
This exhibition is made possible by the Harn Program Endowment.


Patterns Past and Present: Arts of Panama
August 12, 2014 – June 7, 2015
Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL

In conjunction with the University of Florida’s commemoration of the centennial of the Panama Canal opening, this exhibition celebrates the artistic heritage of indigenous peoples of Panama. Exquisite works in gold, ceramic and stone produced by ancient Panamanian cultures predating European conquest, are juxtaposed with an array of twentieth-century appliqued textiles called molas made by the Kuna people of eastern Panama.

Ancient works from cultures in west and central regions, with their refined formal qualities and diversity of mediums and styles, are evidence of the wealth and prestige of powerful chiefs who also functioned as religious leaders. The molas of the Kuna reflect ancient practices and ideas, as well as adaptation to vast and rapid changes in Panama, mainly stemming from the construction of the canal.

Divided by several centuries, these works share common traits of deriving inspiration from nature as well as envisioning the supernatural world. Both ancient and modern art feature brilliant, maze-like designs that demonstrate blending keen observation of nature with a mastery of abstraction. In both ancient and modern societies, art provides us with a worldview expressed with a transcendent aesthetic.

This exhibition is made possible by the George A. Smathers Libraries and Copa Airlines, The University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies and the US Department of Education with additional support from the Harn Program Endowment.


The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia
November 22, 2014–May 31, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC

Travel shapes how we see the world. Long after a trip has ended, images made to guide, track, and represent travelers and their journeys continue to influence our views of other cultures and our own cultural identities. Featuring more than 100 works created over the past five centuries, The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia provides glimpses of travels across the Asian continent, from trade voyages to tourist trips.

Juxtaposing East Asian scrolls, Japanese woodblock prints, and contemporary photography with maps, archaeological drawings, and souvenirs, The Traveler’s Eye invites viewers to look more closely at these seemingly straightforward images. Beneath the surface, they will discover the deliberate choices made by artists representing journeys and travelers seeking to remember them.

The exhibition moves through a provocative series of themes, ranging from Edo-period views of Japan’s famed Tōkaidō Road to Raghubir Singh’s photographic essay on the ubiquitous Ambassador car in India. All of the works shed light on particular cultural histories of travel throughout Asia.

The Traveler’s Eye concludes with three vignettes on Western travelers who recorded and remembered Asia during the last century: German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in central Asia, American collector (and museum founder) Charles Lang Freer in China, and the many travelers worldwide who shared memories with mass-produced, hand-colored postcards.


Indigenous Beauty
February 12 – May 17, 2015
Seattle Art Museum

Drawn from the celebrated Native American art collection of Charles and Valerie Diker, Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection will feature about 110 masterworks representing tribes across the North American continent. Shaped by the Dikers’ passion for American Indian art and culture, coupled with an aesthetic sensibility honed by their long engagement with modern and contemporary art, this superb collection is renowned as one of the largest, most comprehensive, and most exquisite collections of Native American art in private hands.

This exhibition showcases a number of recent acquisitions never seen before by the public, and will be the first traveling exhibition culled from this collection.
The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts. Guest curator is David Penney, Associate Director of Scholarship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and local curator is Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art at the Seattle Art Museum.


Seattle Collects Northwest Coast Native Art
February 12 – May 17, 2015
Seattle Art Museum

In conjunction with Indigenous Beauty, the Seattle Art Museum presents Seattle Collects Northwest Coast Native Art, a complementary exhibition of 60 Northwest Coast Native works drawn from local private collections.
Iconic masks, wood sculpture, argillite carvings, and weavings reveal the unique styles developed over generations—from pre-contact to the present—by Native artists living along the Pacific coast and its inland waterways.


Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa
Sunday, February 22, 2015 to Sunday, May 31, 2015
The Cleveland Museum of Art

Some of the most beloved artistic creations of sub-Saharan Africa, masks, figures, and decorative art labeled as Senufo have been the subject of numerous studies by African, American, and European scholars since the 1930s. The interest in sculpture identified as Senufo was largely stimulated by its discovery by the artistic avant-garde in the early twentieth century. Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger were among those to find inspiration in the oeuvre of their West African counterparts.

Through a stunning selection of objects in diverse styles and mediums, the exhibition introduces visitors to the poro and sandogo societies, the primary settings for the production and use of works of art in the Senufo-speaking region of northern Côte d’Ivoire. However, drawing on recent research in Mali and Burkina Faso, the exhibition also includes sculptures not usually attributed to Senufo-speaking artists or patrons, thus shattering the boundaries of the corpus typically identified as Senufo.

Featuring nearly 160 loans from museums and private collections in Europe, Canada, and the United States,Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa examines the shifting meanings of the term Senufo since the late nineteenth century and investigates assumptions underlying the labeling of art as Senufo. Revealing the shortcomings of labels tied to limited cultural or ethnic groups, the exhibition encourages a closer look at individual objects and their particular histories.
Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa will subsequently also travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.


Raven’s Many Gifts: Native Art of the Northwest Coast
On view April 5, 2014 to May 31, 2015

Peabody Esssex Museum, Salem, MA

Explore the living relationships among humans, animals, ancestors and supernatural beings through works of Native art from the Pacific Northwest Coast created during the past 200 years. Ceremonial regalia, trade goods and art sold in galleries today reveal creative expressions of family, heritage, politics and commerce in a changing world. Raven’s Many Gifts presents artworks that convey broadly shared aesthetic and cultural traditions while emphasizing the distinctiveness of various indigenous communities and their artists. The themes – Living Stories, Family Connections and Market Innovations – feature objects from PEM’s renowned collection of Native American art from the Northwest Coast. The Raven in the installation’s title is the Northwest Coast culture hero who brought light to the world.


Embodiments: Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture
January 31, 2015 – July 5, 2015
de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA

This selection of sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa pays homage to the figure in African art. Embodiments: Masterworks of African Figurative Sculpture features 120 pieces from the collection of Richard H. Scheller, composed of classic and iconic sculptures as well as more unusual examples that challenge commonly held assumptions about African art. The geographical breadth of the collection and the variations in its depictions of the human form will allow visitors to explore both the histories and the formal qualities of these works of art.

Approximately 110 cultural groups are represented by sculptures spanning several centuries and encompassing a broad range of styles, from realism to abstraction. In their original contexts, these objects represented ancestors, expressed community values, and served religious and ceremonial purposes. For example, Luluwa artists carved bwimpe (power figures) that expressed ideals of beauty as a moral virtue through their highly intricate coiffures and stylized scarification marks, and rituals associated with these sculptures offered protection to women and their children.

As works of art that were removed from their originating communities and entered the art market, the sculptures in this exhibition express value systems and cultural relationships both inside and outside Africa. Works such as the eyema byeri (or “the image of the ancestor”), from the Fang Ntumu of northern Gabon, were once placed atop reliquaries containing human remains. During the early 20th century, such sculptures circulated among European and American dealers and collectors whose interest in African art was spurred by a passion for modernism. The Scheller Collection eyema byeri was once owned by Paul Guillaume, a Parisian dealer and champion of modernist art who was also an advisor to the legendary Dr. Albert Barnes, founder of the Barnes Foundation.


Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Arts
December 9, 2014–September 7, 2015
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

The figures created by Mbembe master carvers from southeastern Nigeria are among the earliest and most visually dramatic wood sculptures preserved from sub-Saharan Africa. Created between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and striking for their synthesis of intense rawness and poetry, these representations of seated figures—mothers nurturing their offspring and aggressive male warriors—were originally an integral part of monumental carved drums positioned at the epicenter of spiritual life, the heartbeat of Mbembe communities.

When these electrifying creations were presented for the first time in a Paris gallery in 1974, they immediately caught the attention of the art world. That exhibition was a groundbreaking event that revealed a tradition unlike any that had defined African art until then. Dispersed internationally among private and institutional collections, these works will be reunited in New York for the first time in this exhibition.


Ancient Colombia: A Journey through the Cauca Valley
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
January 31, 2015–December 31, 2015

In spite of the popular legend of El Dorado, the conquest of Colombia never quite captured public imagination the way the conquest of Mexico or Peru did. The most valuable source of information, apart from the diverse archaeological remains, comes from Spaniards who looked beyond gold to see the marvels of the New World. Some wrote accounts, while others collected letters and reports by conquistadors for compilation into publications.

This exhibition follows the 16th century journey of Pedro Cieza de Léon, one of the most important chroniclers of the conquest, who landed on the north shore of what is now Colombia in 1533, through the Cauca River Valley. Throughout the exhibition, quotes from his descriptions are used to compare and contrast the views of 16th-century Spaniards with the insights of recent scholarship that pertain to the objects on view.

Colonial text sources convey the impression that 16th-century Colombia and its inhabitants made on the conquistadors, and in many cases the objects appear to illustrate the same world that the Spaniards described. However, recent study of the material culture and indigenous groups of Colombia reveals that the history of the people of Colombia is older and more diverse than is apparent in historical documents.


Native American Art: The Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA

This multifaceted exhibition, from the The Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, showcases objects from more than 50 different Native American cultures.
On loan to the VMFA from Robert and Nancy Nooter, artworks include an expertly carved Tlingit raven rattle, a beautifully adorned River Crow war shirt, ceramic vessels from the Acoma and Hopi Pueblos, baskets by Pomo and Apache artists, and exquisite Navajo textiles.

Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and curated by Dr Lee Anne Hurt, Assistant Curator of Ancient American Art


Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Ali‘i
August 29, 2015 – February 28, 2016
de Young Museum, San Francisco

Explore the distinctive art, culture, and history of Hawai‘i with the first exhibition of Hawaiian featherwork on the U.S. mainland, developed in partnership with the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu. Presented in San Francisco, which is considered to be the gateway to the Pacific, the exhibition will feature approximately 75 rare and stunning examples of the finest featherwork capes and cloaks in existence, as well as royal staffs of feathers (kāhili), feather lei (lei hulu manu), helmets (mahiole), feathered god images (akua hulu manu), and related eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings and works on paper.

Handcrafted of plant fiber and rare feathers from endemic birds of the islands, the cloaks (‘ahu‘ula) and capes provided spiritual protection to Hawaiian chiefs, proclaiming their identity and status. The abstract patterns and compositions of royal feathers (nā hulu ali‘i) are both beautiful and full of cultural meaning. While the arrangements of their forms—crescents, triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, and lines—and fields of color appear contemporary, they are ancient. Symbols of the power and status of Hawai‘i’s monarchs at home and abroad, these vibrantly colored treasures of the Hawaiian people endure today as masterpieces of unparalleled artistry, technical skill, and cultural pride.


African Art in African American Collections
September 25, 2015 – January 17, 2016

DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago

Pur•pose (noun), the reason for which something exists or for which it has been done or made. To have purpose is the desire or the resolve necessary to achieve a goal. Much like the traditional tribal objects found in this exhibition each had a purpose, each a specific function. Equally filled with purpose are the collectors who acquired objects once fashioned as mere curiosities by Western aesthetics categorized as naïve, primitive art. African Art in African American Collections is the result of a collaboration forged with the singular purpose; to provide essential commentary on African art from an African American perspective. Documenting the often ignored perspectives of African American collectors provides the framework for the academic, scholarly dialogue that links traditional African objects to the New Negro Movement of the early twentieth century to the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and beyond. Curators Donna Page and Lenard Kahan, have researched and interviewed over 30 collectors highlighting exquisite examples of objects representative and characteristic of traditional artistic production and, modern works created by artists of African descent. The work found within these collections challenges the stereotypical, limited definition of what is called African art. The genre long seen as the depiction of traditional tribal objects created for rituals to invoke the spirits is broadly pushed to encompass all fine art created by Black Africans. This more expansive classification allows contemporary artists from Africa an artistic category that best fits their scope of work. This exhibition and catalogue of the same title provides the forum for African American collectors to expound not only on the very works they so richly and dedicatedly pursued, but to speak poetically about the blending of old traditions with new compositions; and the synchronization created when both forms are presented and viewed together with significant purpose.
Organized by Donna Page and Lenard Kahan with support from DuSable Museum of African American History; Co-curated by Donna Page and Lenard Kahan


Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures
Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology
Cambridge, MA
October 18, 2014 through October 18, 2017

War is a persistent attribute of human cultures through time, and weapons are crafted with a practical, and deadly, intent. Nearly as pervasive as war itself, is the practice of decorating objects used to wage it. Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures is a new Peabody Museum exhibition that presents the varied beauty and craftsmanship of war objects drawn from cultures around the world. From maces, clubs, daggers, and spears, to shields, helmets, and entire suits of armor, this exhibition offers museum-goers more than 150 striking examples of weapons that are also extraordinary works of art.

What would compel a warrior to deliberately imbue his weapon with beauty that stands in such stark contrast to its intended purpose? And why are war objects so much more common and elaborately decorated than those crafted for peace-making? Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures probes intriguing questions, unveils the stories behind some of the most stunning war objects ever created, and explores the passion and purpose of the people who made them.
Curated by Steven LeBlanc, Ph.D., archaeologist and Director of Collections (retired), Peabody Museum.


Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas

Long-Term Installation
Brooklyn Museum

Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas presents over one hundred masterpieces from our permanent Arts of the Americas collection, exemplifying the concept of transformation as part of the spiritual beliefs and practice of the region’s indigenous peoples, past and present. Themes of life, death, fertility, and regeneration are explored through pre-Columbian and historical artworks, including many pieces that are rarely on display.

Highlights include the Huastec Life-Death Figure, the Kwakwaka’wakw Thunderbird Transformation Mask, and two eight-foot-tall, nineteenth-century Heiltsuk House Postsmade to support the huge beams of a great Northwest Coast plank house. Other featured objects include Hopi and Zuni kachinas, masks from throughout the Americas, Mexica (Aztec) and Maya sculptures, and ancient Andean textiles including the two-thousand-year-old Paracas Textile, which illustrates the way in which early cultures of Peru’s South Coast envisioned their relationship with nature and the supernatural realm.

Among the twenty-one objects that have rarely or never been on public view are a full-body bark-cloth mask made by the Pami’wa of Colombia and Brazil, a Maya effigy vessel in the form of a hunchback wearing a jaguar skin, and two contemporary kachinas by Hopi carver Henry Shelton.

Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas is organized by Nancy Rosoff, Andrew W. Mellon Curator, Arts of the Americas, Brooklyn Museum; and Susan Kennedy Zeller, Associate Curator, Native American Art, Brooklyn Museum.