For more than two millennia, ironworking has shaped African cultures in the most fundamental ways. Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths reveals the history of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most basic natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, spiritual potency, and astonishing artistry. Striking Iron is an international travelling exhibition organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA that combines scholarship with objects of great aesthetic beauty to create the most comprehensive treatment of the blacksmith’s art in Africa to date. The exhibition includes over 225 artworks from across the African continent focusing on the region south of the Sahara and covering a time period spanning early archaeological evidence to the present day. Striking Iron features artworks from the Fowler collection as well as American and European public and private collections.
Every Day: Selections from the Collection is the BMA’s first reinstallation of its contemporary collection centered on black artistic imagination. Nearly 50 works of painting, sculpture, video, printmaking, and photography from the BMA’s permanent collection, alongside a select group of loans primarily from the celebrated Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection, foreground the critical contributions black artists have made to postwar visual art. Works by black American and African diasporic artists occupy anchor positions in the thematic reinstallation, emphasizing the ways in which these artists have shaped thinking and making in contemporary art. Themes explored include history, shape, material, gesture, self, ceremony, and violence. Every Day represents the BMA’s collection history, highlights new acquisitions purchased with proceeds from the auction of recently deaccessioned works, and continues the BMA’s efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive art experience for Baltimore.
Malick Sidibé (1935–2016), a famous Malian photographer, was granted the Hasselblad Award in 2003, among other prizes, and received a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. He is the first artist to earn these two prestigious distinctions. The Musée Barbier-Mueller is paying tribute to this photographer, whose body of work the visitor will first discover through a dozen unpublished portraits, taken within the framework of a competition featuring songs against AIDS, organized in Mali by Monique Barbier-Mueller in 2005. Malick Sidibé photographed the finalists in the competition in front of the unchanging striped backdrop and black-and-white checked floor of his studio. These songs, which bear messages about preventing AIDS, were broadcast to the Malian population over regional radio stations and are retransmitted here. Better-known prints, displayed in the basement, bring the Mali of the 1960s–1970s back to life and bear witness to the kind, curious, and spirited gaze with which Malick Sidibé regarded his peers. The museum wishes to showcase Mali, while at the same time promoting its traditional arts. Extraordinary pieces, including pendants, ornaments and figurines, masks, seats, and statues belonging to the Soninke, Dogon, and Bamana peoples, to cite only a few, are thus exhibited on the mezzanine. Brought together in the museum for the first time, these works will show the artists’ admirable creativity, while opening a window on the many rites and beliefs they sustain.
On Display in the Walled City features 38 objects from the Fowler Museum’s famed Wellcome Collection, which were acquired out of the Nigerian Pavilion during the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, 1924–1925. Nearly twenty Nigerian men and women were invited to participate as artists in the Exhibition, which showcased British wealth and supremacy while simultaneously stimulating trade with and amongst its various colonies. The artists’ families lived in the “Walled City,” where the Nigerian Pavilion was located, and demonstrated their craft daily to public visitors. The Fowler’s presentation includes a model of the royal altar for Oba Ovonramwen from the Kingdom of Benin, various ritual and domestic objects made by Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, and Kanuri artists as well as entry doors, carved on site, from the homes where artists lived. On Display in the Walled City gives the Fowler an opportunity to share some of the research it is doing on its Wellcome Collection (donated to the museum in 1965 by the Wellcome Trust in London) and to offer new insights into the colonial enterprise in Nigeria. This exhibition is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and is curated by Erica P. Jones, Associate Curator of African Arts.
A pioneer in the history of contemporary American art and sculpture, Melvin Edwards (American, b. 1937) has influenced generations of artistic giants with his innovative formal genius and deep political commitment. This exhibition highlights the African roots of his dynamic, muscular abstraction by placing a small selection of works from the BMA’s world-class collection of African art in dialogue with 16 works that span four decades of Edwards’ career. The artist, who is the great-great-great grandson of a West African blacksmith, has lived, taught, and traveled throughout Africa since the early 1970s, forming relationships with artists, students, and politicians in 16 countries. In doing so, he discovered a relationship between his work and that of African blacksmiths and carvers, past and present. The 20+ objects in this exhibition showcase the formal corroborations Edwards found in Africa and highlight the importance of the African continent in the development of American art. Edwards’ work has been widely exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented in numerous collections at prestigious institutions. In 1993, the Neuberger Museum of Art organized Melvin Edwards Sculpture: A Thirty-Year Retrospective 1963–1993. In 2015, the Nasher Sculpture Center organized a second retrospective, Melvin Edwards: Five Decades. Edwards has had a longstanding commitment to public art, working on projects for public housing and universities since the 1960s.
No exhibition has yet paid homage to Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), an important figure in the artistic world in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Musée de l’Orangerie, in association with the musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is honouring this extraordinary man who remains unjustly unknown. The exhibition will demonstrate the different facets of this unusual character, with his Quaker-like appearance and deadpan humour, who combined an exemplary career as a civil servant with strong artistic and anarchist convictions. Columnist, editor at the Revue Blanche, art critic, publisher - he published Rimbaud’s ‘Illuminations’ -, and gallery owner, Fénéon was also an exceptional collector who amassed a large number of masterpieces including a unique set of African and Oceanian sculptures. The exhibition will bring together an exceptional array of paintings and drawings by Seurat, Signac, Degas, Bonnard, Modigliani, Matisse, Derain, Severini, Balla, etc., pieces from Africa and Oceania, as well as documents and archives.