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"Elvis" Mask Among 200 Objects Featured in African Innovations at the Brooklyn Museum
Unknown Yoruba Artist, Fragment of a Head, place made: Ife Nigeria, 1100-1500. Terracotta. Overall: 6 x 3 1/4 x 3 3/4in. (15.2 x 8.3 x 9.5cm) Collection of Robin B. Martin.
BROOKLYN, NY.- Beginning August 12, 2011, the Brooklyn Museum will present a long-term installation of 200 of the finest objects from its renowned collection of African art in the recently renovated gallery space on the first floor. African Innovations, a chronological and contextual reinstallation, will be on view while the galleries in which the African collection has been installed since 1935 undergo large-scale renovation.

African Innovations, in which works will be arranged historically for the first time, will be framed on either end by two displays. The first, containing masterpieces from the seventh century b.c.e. to 1800 c.e. by artists ranging from those of ancient Nok and Hellenistic North Africa to the Sapi of Sierra Leone and sculptors of the ancient kingdom of Benin, will establish a pattern of Africa’s ongoing interaction with other parts of the world. The other display, with a selection of contemporary works, will bring this story up to the present and represents the Museum’s first dedicated space for works from present-day Africa. Selections from the African collection’s largest portion, which dates from the early nineteenth to the midtwentieth century, will be installed between these two end displays, organized by five themes: protection, authority, transitions, performance, and personal beauty.

Among the works on view will be the sculpture Figure of a Horn Blower, an important example of Benin’s history of stylized naturalism; Mother with Child (Lupingu Lua Luimpe), a Lulua sculpture from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is considered to be one of the great masterpieces of African art; Snake Pendant, a small, delicate work in gold by an unknown Ebrié or Baule artist; and Skipping Girl by Yinka Shonibare, a contemporary artist whose figures examine the history of interaction between Europe and Africa, making particular use of Dutch wax fabric, a commodity created in Europe and sold in West Africa.

The Brooklyn Museum was the first museum in America to display African objects as works of art and has one of the largest and most important collections in the country. African Innovations continues the Museum’s pioneering history in the field, inviting the visitor to examine the Museum’s world-famous collection with new eyes and to celebrate centuries of African creativity.

This reinstallation has been organized by Kevin Dumouchelle, Assistant Curator, Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands, Brooklyn Museum.

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