Meet the African Art Museums of Instagram

August 27, 2017 By: Adenike Cosgrove

Italian architect, Renzo Piano believes that museums are a place “where one should lose one’s head“. We agree. And the great thing is that we can now ‘lose our heads’ without stepping out of our front doors. Museums are transforming—they are digitalising their collections, engaging with visitors and patrons on social media, and increasingly sharing images of their collections on Instagram for all to see.

You’re probably already aware of the British Museum and MET’s Instagram accounts. So we’ve curated a list of 10 additional museums that regularly post images of African art masterpieces in their collections, keeping us in the know about recent acquisitions and events, and giving us the chance to scroll through images in the comfort of our homes.

Here are the museums with collections of stunning classic African art.

The Art Institute of Chicago | @artinstitutechi

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago now has a collection of over 400 works displayed across two galleries. Included in its collection are masks and figural sculpture, beadwork, furniture, regalia, and textiles from countries including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa. The Art Institute’s collection of over 80 African ceramics is the largest in an American art museum. The full African art collection at the Art Institute is available to browse online.

Produced between the 19th and mid-20th century, these elaborate masks reflect the spiritual life of the peoples of modern-day Congo, honoring royalty, courtship, fertility, and the roles of women and men in a variety of ritual practices and traditions—now on view in African Art.

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Saint Louis Art Museum | @stlartmuseum

The Saint Louis Art Museum began collecting African art in 1936, when very few American art museums were doing so. The Museum’s first African acquisition was a Benin bronze head. This initial purchase was reinforced during the 1940’s by additional purchases of Central and West African art, such as a Fang reliquary figure, Yaka headrest, Widekum mask, and Chokwe chief’s chair. Since those early years, the African art collection has grown to include over 1,200 works. More than half the collection is comprised of gifts from St. Louis businessman and philanthropist Morton D. May. Highlights from the African art collection at the St Louis Art Museum are available to browse online.

Rare for its portrayal of both power and sculptural beauty, “Power Figure (nkisi nkondi)” embodies the character of a hunter. Among Kongo cultures, these figures were commissioned from nganga, ritual specialists, by individuals or communities to heal, protect, and resolve problems. Each iron blade or nail across the torso represents a specific moment when the figure was called into action or “to the hunt”. This unique work was acquired by SLAM in 2016 and is on view in Gallery 102. #newonview #stlartmuseum

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Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac | @quaibranly

What’s there to say about the Quai Branly that’s not already known? How about this, the museum has a permanent collection of over 300,000 works of African art, Oceanic art, Asian art, and works from the Americas. Knew that? Did you know that the museum currently has an Instagram competition on, that sees the winner get a private guided tour of its soon-to-open temporary exhibition, “Native forests, Arts of Equatorial Africa”. Yeah, that’s news to us too! To get your creative juices flowing for the competition, check out the African art collection at the Quai Branly.

Salière (objet de prestige), population Edo, Royaume de Bénin (Afrique). 16ème siècle, ivoire d’éléphant, inv. 70.2008.14.1 © musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, photo Thierry Ollivier, Michel Urtado La partie basse, formée de deux morceaux d’ivoire, figure quatre soldats portugais, identifiables à leurs costumes, leurs longues barbes. De nombreux détails sont représentés : épées, lance, chapeau avec une plume, croix portée en pendentif et motifs décoratifs des vêtements. Ces éléments ne laissent pas de surface qui ne soient pas sculptées. Sur le couvercle : une caravelle avec une vigie figurée au sommet du mât. Un homme escalade les cordages. #LAfriquedesRoutes #quaibranly #museeduquaibranly #quaibranlymuseum #quaibranlyjacqueschirac #Afrique #Africa #ivoire #ivory

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Royal Museum for Central Africa | @africamuseumbe

The Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) in Belgium has a bit of a shady history. Built on the back of Belgium’s brutal colonisation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, King Leopold II established the Congo Museum in 1898. More recently, after three years of renovations, the RMCA in Belgium will open its doors again in June 2018.  The full African art collection at RMCA is available to browse online.

🌍 Headdresses of Central Africa. 🙋 Follow for more. #headdress #ethnography #feathers #fashion #chiefs #africa #congo #drc #collections #culture #kings #healers #science #research #museum #instamuseum #feathers #history #art #tervuren #anthropology #sociology

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Fowler Museum at UCLA | @fowlermuseum

The Fowler’s collections comprise more than 120,000 art and ethnographic objects representing ancient, traditional, and contemporary cultures of Africa, Native and Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific. The majority of works at the Museum were donated. The Sir Henry Wellcome Collection of 30,000 objects, given to the Museum in 1965, forms the core of the museum’s African and Pacific collection. Collector Jay T. Last, donated a significant collection of 92 wood and ivory Lega objects from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The museum also boasts one of the world’s greatest collection of Yoruba art. The Lega works donated can be seen online.

Have you seen our Fowler in Focus exhibition: “The Collector and the Dealer: Gifts of African Art from Jay T. Last and Merton D. Simpson” yet? It’s only on view until August 7, 2016! #uclaarts #africanart

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Musée Barbier-Mueller | @museebarbiermueller

Barbier-Mueller Museum opened its doors in May 1977, three months after the passing of the renowned collector, Josef Mueller. To celebrate the 40th birthday of the Musée Barbier-Mueller, La Biennale Paris is welcoming a selection of 130 works from this Swiss family’s personal collections. Learn about the Mueller collection history here and see the full collection of African art at the museum here.

🇫🇷 Dans la maison de #JosefMueller à #Soleure…🔮 Josef commença à collectionner l’#ArtPrimitif dans les années 1920! Son beau-fils, Jean Paul #BarbierMueller continua avec cette tradition et fonda le #MuséeBarbierMueller en 1977 🤗 #Collection #CollectionFamiliale #Famille _____________________________________ 🇬🇧 Into #JosefMueller’s home in #Soloturn…🔮 Josef began to collect #PrimitiveArt in the 1920s! His stepson, Jean Paul #BarbierMueller went on with the tradition and founded the #BarbierMuellerMuseum in 1977 🤗 #Family #FamilyCollection #Tradition

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Sainsbury Centre | @sainsburycentre

Sir Robert Sainsbury started collecting art around 1929. His first major purchase was a bronze head from artist Sir Jacob Epstein. Sir Robert talked about his passion for collecting being like an artistic instinct, with a ‘gut feeling’ guiding his choices.The collection now contains over 1,400 items spanning 5,000 years. If the museum’s Instagram feed is not enough, you can search through the museum’s collection of African art online.

Today we are celebrating Jacob Epstein’s birthday. An artist but also a passionate collector, Epstein assembled a selection of Fang sculptures from Gabon similar to this reliquary head on display @sainsburycentre. As sculptor, he was interested in the aesthetic qualities of these African objects. #sainsburycentre #uea #heyuea #jacobepstein #bornonthisday #fangofgabon #africansculpture

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Museu de Cultures del Món | @muec_bcn

Only recently opening in 2015, the Museu de Cultures del Mon (Museum of World Cultures) houses over 700 works from Asia, Africa and Oceania. View African art highlights from the museum’s collection here.

Aquesta figura bembe de l’actual territori de la República Democràtica del Congo està recoberta per una càrrega ritual composta de substàncies d’origen orgànic i mineral. Formava part d’un conjunt de figures que es feien servir com a fetitxe en ritus de curació o de fecunditat. #mculturesmon #mworldcultures #Àfrica #ObresDestacades

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Museum Fünf Kontinente | @museum_fuenf_kontinente

Another museum with a vast and long history, the Museum of Five Continents was officially founded in 1868. The first collectors of objects from outside Europe were the members of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Today the museum is the second largest in Germany, with a collection of 200,000 objects. Unfortunately the museum does not have an online database of its African collection but you can marvel at the masterpieces that grace the museum’s exhibit floor on Instagram.

Seit jeher stärkten Frauen ihren Männern den Rücken: Diese gut 50cm große Helmmaske mit Doppelgesicht aus Holz mit Antilopenhaut überzogen, aus Zinnblech und mit Eisennagel stammt aus Nigeria. Sie ist eine Kombination eines hellen, weiblichen und eines dunklen, männlichen Gesichts. Während die Augen des Frauengesichts durchaus lebendig wirken, sind die Augenhöhlen des männlichen Gesichts (zum Zeichen der Blindheit?) leer. Sonst entsprechen alle Einzelheiten der Realität, wie z.B. die Wiedergabe der traditionellen Zahndeformation durch schräges Abschleifen der oberen Schneidezähne. Die gemalten Ornamente auf dem Frauengesicht sind nsibidi-Zeichen, mit denen sich die Frauen ihren Körper bemalten, um zu demonstrieren, welche Ereignisse, wie Liebe, Versöhnung, Geburt, sie gerade beschäftigen. Die Interpretation des doppelten Gesichts ist umstritten. Aufschlussreich sind allerdings Interpretationen, die vor dem Hintergrund lokaler Traditionen eine Deutung im Sinne der „Einheit der Dualität“ geben. Ein Ejagham-Häuptling erklärte 1969: „Die Maske stellt Tata Agbo und seine Frau dar. Tata Agbo war im Krieg geboren, all seine Brüder und Schwestern waren im Kampf getötet worden, nur er und seine Frau blieben übrig. Jedes Mal, wenn er in die Schlacht zog, ging seine Frau hinter ihm. Wenn er geschossen hatte, lud sie ihm wieder das Gewehr, bis er siegte. Deshalb hat man nach seinem Tod, zur Erinnerung, diese Maske hergestellt, denn während der Mann auf das Schlachtfeld blickte, wandte sich die Frau beim Laden des Gewehrs nach hinten.“ — #ourmfk #weltoffen #munich #maske #holz #doppelgesicht #nigeria #frauen #dual #explore #exploreeverything #ethnologischesmuseum #afrika #museum #museumlove #museumgram

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National Museum of African Art | @nmafa

The National Museum of African Art‘s mission is to inspire conversations about the beauty, power, and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide. The first museum dedicated to African art in the United States, the National Museum of African Art was founded in 1964 by a Foreign Service office who bought African art objects in Germany. In 2005, the museum received the Walt Disney-Tishman Collection of 525 works spanning most major African art styles and 75 cultures. Today, the National Museum of African Art possesses over 50,000 pieces of African art.

Take a peek at some of our newest gifts and acquisitions that are now part of our collection at the National Museum of African Art! Face mask (deangle), mid-20th century Dan Peoples #Liberia #Cotedivoire #Wood #shells #plastic #beads #collection Gift of the Estate of William Siegmann Liberia

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ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA | @imodara

…And of course there’s yours truly. With our regular trips to Europe and North America, we try to visit as many museums as possible to share what we see with you all. Next trip, Japan. We hear there’s a museum of African art there too! At 1,099 followers, who’ll knock us over to 1,100?

#DRCongo | #Kongo | Nduda Figure THIS guy takes the crown as the most incredible thing in the museum. What you can’t see are the pieces of mirror underneath the animal strips, used to ward off evil spirits #africa #art #africanart @museum_fuenf_kontinente

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