African Arts ― Global Conversations 

By Kisito Assangni - Wednesday, June 3, 2020
African Arts ― Global Conversations 

African Arts―Global Conversations draws from the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive and renowned collections to assert the importance of African arts within the art historical canon. Spanning the entire Museum, the exhibition questions dominant narratives from Western art history and museum practices that have traditionally sidelined African arts, and makes important connections between the continent’s various artistic practices and those of other global cultural groups.

Image: Atta Kwami, Another Time, Acrylic on linen, 2011 © Atta Kwami

 

African Arts―Global Conversations draws from the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive and renowned collections to assert the importance of African arts within the art historical canon. Spanning the entire Museum, the exhibition questions dominant narratives from Western art history and museum practices that have traditionally sidelined African arts, and makes important connections between the continent’s various artistic practices and those of other global cultural groups.

 

Atta Kwami, Another Time, Acrylic on linen, 2011 © Atta Kwami

 

Included in the exhibition are African artworks from a wide range of places and time periods, spanning circa 2300 B.C.E. to the present day, in conversation with collection objects from outside of Africa that share similar themes—from faith, race, and history to design, aesthetics, and style. For example, a Kuba artist’s mask of Wóót is shown alongside Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington in the Luce Center for American Art, illustrating strategies artists used to represent community founders and origins. By considering the independent development of shared themes and ideas from different parts of the world, African Arts―Global Conversations uses a uniquely transcultural approach to reconsider African art’s relation to art from other regions, moving beyond the narrative that African arts were “discovered” by European modernists.

 

 

Ranti Bam, Itari, Ceramics, 2020

 

The exhibition curated by Kristen Windmuller, presents major concepts and movements in art history, recasting them with an eye toward the African continent. African Arts―Global Conversations explores topics that include Crossroads: Orthodox Ethiopia and Catholic Italy, which pairs processional crosses from each kingdom, illustrating their historical connections and how the interpretation of the cross form varied across cultures; Might and Memory, which explores different expressions of power by contrasting sculptures dedicated to warriors from Ethiopia’s Konso peoples with those from the Huastec peoples of modern day Mexico; and Iconoclasm, which considers, through the pairing of a pharaonic Egyptian portrait sculpture and a Kongo power figure (nkisi), how acts of destruction can also be acts of agency. Also included in the exhibition is a mask carved by a Fang artist paired with a portrait by Pablo Picasso, reassessing the Spanish artist’s long relationship with African art and exploring his limited understanding of the continent’s diverse artistic styles, while also presenting each artist’s differing approach to images of women. American painter Beauford Delaney’s engagement with Fang sculpture is considered as well, in the grouping African Arts and the Harlem Renaissance, which includes vintage books by Alain Locke and Carl Einstein.

 

Taiye Idahor, Kindred-ship, Collage on canvas, 2015

 

The exhibition includes thirty-three artworks, highlighting several new acquisitions and never before-exhibited works, among others. Of the twenty artworks by African artists, important objects include a celebrated eighteenth-century Kuba sculpture of a ruler that is the only one of its kind in the United States, fourteenth to sixteenth-century Ethiopian Orthodox processional crosses, and a mid-twentieth-century Sierra Leonean Ordehlay or Jollay society mask.

 

Kuba artist, Mask Mwaash aMbooy, 19thcentury, Brooklyn Museum, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund

 

Also featured are paintings, ceramics, and collages by contemporary artists Atta Kwami, Ranti Bam, Magdalene Odundo OBE, and Taiye Idahor. African works in the exhibition are paired with works by Māori, Seminole, Spanish, American, Huastec, and Korean artists.

Until 15thNovember 2020

African Arts―Global Conversations, Brooklyn Museum, New York

Kisito Assangni is a Togolese-French curator, art consultant, and farmer who studied museology at Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Currently living between UK, France and Togo, his research focuses primarily on psychogeography and the cultural impact of globalisation. He investigates the modes of cultural production that combine theory and practice. He inherently aims at going beyond the usual relations between artist, curator, institution, audience, and artwork in order to engage audiences in encounters with art that are unexpected, transformative, and fun. His discursive public programs and exhibitions have been shown internationally, including the Venice Biennale; ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Centre of Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Malmo Konsthall, Sweden; Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles; Es Baluard Museum of Art, Palma, Spain; National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow; Marrakech Biennale among others. Assangni has participated in talks, seminars, and symposia at numerous institutions such as the British Museum, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Ben Uri Museum, London; Pori Art Museum, Finland; Kunsthall 3.14, Bergen (Norway); Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial, Mali; Sala Rekalde Foundation, Bilbao; COP17 Summit, South Africa; Depart Foundation, Malibu (USA); Sint-Lukas University, Brussels; Motorenhalle Centre of Contemporary Art, Dresden (Germany); Kunsthalle Sao Paulo, Brazil; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ticino, Switzerland. Assangni is the founder of TIME is Love Screening (International video art program) and art advisor for Latrobe Regional Gallery in Victoria, Australia.

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