Taking its name from a 1970’s feminist anthem, I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa draws upon a selection of artworks by women artists from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s permanent collection to reveal a more contemporary feminism that recognizes the contributions of women to the most pressing issues of their times. With experimental and sophisticated use of diverse media, the 27 featured artists offer insightful and visually stunning approaches to matters of community, faith, the environment, politics, colonial encounters, racism, identity, and more.
Across central Africa’s matrilineal belt, the most important artworks were those that depicted the female body. In these 19th and early 20th century communities, group identity and familial responsibility flowed through the maternal line. Artists responded to this reality by sculpting visual markers of motherhood onto a range of objects associated with status and authority. In these societies, mothers not only created life and nurtured families but also stood at the centre of the moral order, ensuring the continuity of entire communities. From monumental headdresses of elderly mothers to sculptures that represent mythic female ancestors, this exhibition brings together nearly 40 objects from public and private collections to demonstrate how artists have represented the power of African mothers and used maternal imagery to signal moral, cultural, and spiritual authority.
Public Viewings: Tuesday, July 21st, 11 am-7 pm Wednesday, July 22nd, 11 am - 7 pm
The Museum of Modern Art announces Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond, the first exhibition devoted to the influential French art critic, editor, publisher, dealer, and collector Félix Fénéon (1861–1944), on view from March 22 through July 25, 2020. Though largely unknown today and always discreetly behind the scenes in his own era, Fénéon played a key role in the careers of leading artists from Georges Seurat and Paul Signac to Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse, each of whom is featured prominently in the exhibition. Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond traces Fénéon’s career through approximately 150 works that highlight his initiatives to help artists via his reviews, exhibitions, and acquisitions; his commitment to anarchism; his literary engagements; and his contributions to the recognition of non-Western art. Bringing together a selection of major works that Fénéon admired, championed, and collected, alongside contemporary letters, documents, and photographs, the exhibition underscores the tremendous impact he had on the development of modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Among African cultures, deceased ancestors remain important members of the community who are revered in the afterlife. They are venerated by surviving family and community members who ask for divine intercession from their forebears in matters related to wealth, fertility, and agricultural prosperity. This exhibition focuses on NOMA’s recently acquired akwanshi stone monolith from the Cross River region of Nigeria, supported with figures and objects rendered in part or whole in stone from other regions of West Africa. The show speaks to the significance of stone as both a natural element and a significant material in the veneration of ancestors. Although carved stones represent ancestors, uncarved stones may also represent ancestors. Such characteristics suggest the importance of stone to this and other African cultures.