From November 21, 2018, the Musée Barbier-Mueller will present an exhibition focused on asen, iron altars specifically those of the former kingdom of Dahomey. It will explore an array of issues important to our understanding of these striking sculptures. Key among these are artist hands, questions of use, the history of these arts, and how asen enhance our understanding of the broader regional history of the southern area of the Republic of Benin where they are found.
Beauty stops us in our tracks. It makes us pause, look, consider. Sometimes it overwhelms us. We are often told art should aspire to this standard and be proportionate, symmetrical, naturalistic, and orderly. But what of work that is designed to revolt and terrify? Across Sub-Saharan Africa, artists working across a range of states, societies, and cultures deliberately created artwork that violated conceptions of beauty, symmetry, and grace—both ours and theirs. Subverting Beauty features approximately two dozen works from sub-Saharan African’s colonial period (c.1880-c. 1960) that are accumulative, composite, crude, counterintuitive, and disproportionate. More importantly still, it explores the reasons why artists working during this turbulent period in the continent’s history turned against beauty in order to express the meaning and vitality of their day-to-day existence.
Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa is the first major exhibition addressing the scope of Saharan trade and the shared history of West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe from the eighth to sixteenth centuries. Weaving stories about interconnected histories, the exhibition showcases the objects and ideas that connected at the crossroads of the medieval Sahara and celebrates West Africa’s historic and under-recognised global significance. Presenting more than 250 artworks spanning five centuries and a vast geographic expanse, the exhibition features unprecedented loans from partner institutions in Mali, Morocco, and Nigeria, many of which will be seen in North America for the first time.
One: Egúngún tells the life story of a twentieth-century Yorùbá masquerade dance costume (egúngún), from its origins in Ògbómọ̀ṣọ́, Nigeria, to its current home in Brooklyn. Composed of over three hundred textiles from Africa, Europe, and Asia, this egúngún swirls into motion during festivals honouring departed ancestors. Centuries old, egúngún is still practised in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and in the Yorùbá diaspora. By highlighting a single egúngún, this exhibition emphasizes the global connections of African masquerades while challenging the misconception that cultural practices are static. At the request of the Lekewọgbẹ family—the makers of this egúngún—this exhibition honours their family name and masquerade heritage. One: Egúngún is curated by Kristen Windmuller-Luna, Sills Family Consulting Curator, African Arts, Brooklyn Museum.
“Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”, wrote Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, and this is the start for our exhibition that shows us how African and European affairs have intermingled EVER since ancient times. This will be done through ‘stories’ of art, identity, journeys and encounters, beginning with travellers’ tales and the first contacts between Europeans and Africans. The exhibition is divided into a number of sections: from formal quality expressed by large and small works to ancient objects from famous African kingdoms, together with masks and figures representing rituals and power.
The Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie, the musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, pay tribute to Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), an important figure in the artistic world in the late 19th and early 20th century. Anarchist, art critic, editor, gallery director and collector, Fénéon espoused an open-minded vision of creation at a time when art was on the verge of the shift to modernity and strove for the recognition of non-western arts.