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LACMA appoints Dr. Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts as curator to launch African art program
Dr. Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, appointed Consulting Curator of African Art, will help launch a program and establish a gallery dedicated to the arts of Africa. Photo: Caro.
LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has named Dr. Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts Consulting Curator of African Art to help launch a program and establish a gallery dedicated to the arts of Africa. Dr. Roberts is Professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, and will continue her full-time teaching position while consulting for LACMA. She was Senior Curator of the Museum for African Art in New York from 1984–1994 and Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA from 1999-2008. Additionally, she was a guest curator at LACMA for the 2008 exhibition Tradition as Innovation in African Art.

The goal of Dr. Roberts’s appointment is to bring greater visibility to African arts in Southern California, while creating programmatic linkages between LACMA and UCLA. As LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan states, “We have looked forward to launching a program for African art for several years and the timing seems right. We are excited to work with Polly Nooter Roberts as we explore new ways of understanding and presenting the richness of African artistic expression.”

Dr. Roberts has conducted research in a number of African countries and many European and American museums and private collections. She has curated such major exhibitions as Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals (1993) and Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996), both 2 at the Museum of African Art, and A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003) at the Fowler Museum. All three shows traveled to several museums, and the latter two received major book awards. Her more recent exhibitions include Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art (Fowler Museum, 2007); Tradition as Innovation in African Art (LACMA, 2008); and Continental Rifts: Contemporary Time-Based Works of Africa (Fowler Museum, 2009). In 2007, Dr. Roberts was decorated by the Republic of France as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for her promotion of francophone African artists. She holds a PhD in Art History from Columbia University.

African Art at LACMA
LACMA’s growing collection of African art is diverse in form, material, and purpose. Works include masks and figures of wood and ivory, metalwork, textiles, beaded crowns, stools, and body adornments. Notable in the collection are a bronze plaque depicting a seventeenth-century official of the Benin Kingdom; a boli figure from Mali; and a selection of works from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.






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