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The San Diego Museum of Art Receives Significant Collection from Sana Art Foundation
Necklace (lei niho palaoa), 19th century. Polynesia: Hawai’i. Whale ivory, human hair, and sennit. Sana Art Foundation Collection.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- The San Diego Museum of Art is acquiring a significant collection of works of art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas (AOA) as part of a newly formed alliance with the Sana Art Foundation, one of the largest collections of its kind in Southern California.

The alliance includes the transfer from the Foundation to the Museum of more than 900 works of art from these regions across the globe. This transfer will increase the Museum’s collection of African art from fewer than one hundred pieces to several hundred items, and it will have an even greater impact on the size and scope of the Oceanic collection.

As the region’s largest art museum, The San Diego Museum of Art is dedicated to presenting and interpreting this historically underrepresented field in an encyclopedic context. In ongoing and changing displays, the Museum will provide a meaningful context for the understanding and appreciation of the sheer breadth and diversity of art from AOA. Furthermore, the Museum looks forward as an institution to celebrating and exploring the rightful place these works have in the world of great art.

“The arrival of the Sana Foundation Collection inaugurates a new era for The San Diego Museum of Art,” said Derrick Cartwright, Executive Director of the Museum. “I wish to thank Edward and Mina Smith for the generous instinct that has led them to transfer such a large group of African, Oceanic, and Native American works to the Museum. Gifts such as these are crucial to the Museum’s ongoing success in collections growth and in serving the entire community.”

Diverse pieces from the Foundation such as tapa cloth (kapa moe) (ca. 1850–60), from Polynesia (Hawai’i); an ornament (kapkap) (early 20th century), from Melanesia (Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz); and a necklace (lei niho palaoa) (19th century), from Polynesia (Hawai’i) are featured in the exhibition Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form, currently on view at the Museum.

A combined effort between the Sana Art Foundation, the Valerie Franklin Collection, and The San Diego Museum of Art, this is the first exhibition to document the Museum’s exploration of this broad area of non-Western art.

The Franklin Collection has long been recognized as a distinguished collection of non-Western art — as with the Sana Foundation, the Museum is fortunate to have forged a productive relationship with Valerie Franklin who, together with her father, has been instrumental in forming many major museum collections of African, Oceanic, and Native American arts in this country. Oceanic Art runs through January 3, 2010.

Dr. Barbara Blackmun, Professor Emerita, Mesa College, and vice chair of The San Diego Museum of Art’s African Arts Council, states “The Sana Foundation collection was formed to preserve wonderful works of art for future generations. Especially noteworthy among these are the treasures that come from the rare and stellar 19th-century Prynnsberg Estate in Southeastern Africa. The San Diego Museum of Art is fortunate to be the recipient of this Foundation’s generosity.”

The transfer of the collection from the Sana Art Foundation to The San Diego Museum of Art ensures that the collection will be housed, researched, and displayed for future generations. The Museum is planning a rich array of programs to dovetail with new displays of works from this collection and others in its galleries over the next years. In addition to the vast collection of art, a substantial number of books pertaining to the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas have been donated to the Museum library. The books, which are now being catalogued, will be available for public use.

“We are honored that we could play a small part in assisting The San Diego Museum of Art achieve its goal of becoming an encyclopedic museum, and we are excited about the future of the arts of AOA at the Museum and the opportunity to make this work accessible to a wider public,” said Mina Wilkie-Smith, Managing Director of the Sana Foundation. “Sana is thankful to the loyal support of its dedicated members, scholars, students, staff, and volunteers, who enabled us over the past thirteen years to grow our collections and library and offer a diverse array of exhibitions, lectures, and publications. We feel that this momentum will only continue to build at The San Diego Museum of Art.”

The San Diego Museum of Art | Africa | Oceania | Americas | Sana Art Foundation | San Diego | California |

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