Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tribal Art - Open Now and Upcoming Museum Exhibitions

Open Now -

1. GREENWICH, CT.- Power Incarnate: Allan Stone’s Collection of Sculpture from the Congo features works drawn from the Estate of Allan Stone, the noted art dealer, gallery owner, and collector who died in 2006 at the age of 74.
Perhaps best known for his expertise in Abstract Expressionism, Mr. Stone’s collection of African art is an extraordinary assemblage in its own right, a decidedly personal collection and a monument to a particular artistic vision. The exhibition is on view form May 14th through September 4th, 2011 at the Bruce Museum.
The prevailing region represented in the exhibition is the Congo, and a particular type, the power figure, are the largest group among these sculptures. Found in the Kongo and Songye cultures, both of which historically produced figures intended to protect their communities, these power figures, often called nkisi or nkishi, along with other conceptually related sculptures from the Congo basin are the focus of the exhibition. The works belong to a series of highly complex, charged and subtle political and cosmological institutions, broadly dating from the early twentieth century. (

2. HOUSTON, TX.-  European navigators began traveling to coastal areas of New Guinea in the sixteenth century, but it was not until 1858 that the Dutch Etna Expedition reached Humboldt Bay and Lake Sentani (in the present-day Indonesian province of Papua, located in western New Guinea). Subsequent scientific and surveying expeditions piqued mounting interest from the West and prompted Europeans to visit the region, observe the culture, and collect works by living artists. Ancestors of the Lake: Art of Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea features works acquired by two of those pioneering visitors to the region: Swiss explorer, ethnologist, photographer, and collector Paul Wirz and French adventurer, art dealer, photographer, and author Jacques Viot, both of whom were active during a notable period of research and collecting that began in 1921. On view at the Menil from May 6 through August 28, Ancestors of the Lake features 50 works, including a group of highly stylized and abstracted wooden sculptures and decorative designed barkcloths (called maro), presented along with rare photographs of these objects in situ. In the twentieth century these exquisitely carved figures and objects and delicately rendered maro inspired Surrealist artists and caught the attention of notable collectors – including John and Dominique de Menil.
Curated by Virginia-Lee Webb, an art historian specializing in non-Western art and a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Ancestors of the Lake juxtaposes selections from the Menil’s permanent holdings with pieces drawn from public and private collections in Australia, Europe, and the United States. As Westerners became more exposed to the art of the Pacific Islands, they began to appreciate its formal artistic qualities: modernists identified with its linear elegance and Surrealists found kindred spirits in its abstract patterns and pure sculptural forms.  (

3.  NEW ORLEANS, LA.- The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) presents Ancestors of Congo Square: African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art on May 13 to July 17. In keeping with the spirit of NOMA’s centennial year, the Museum highlights one of the most impressive areas of its permanent collection: its extensive holdings in African art. Additionally, the exhibition looks at the strong artistic and cultural connections between New Orleans and Africa. The title of the exhibition and its accompanying book is a nod to the historic Congo Square adjacent to the French Quarter in New Orleans, where African American slaves would gather to socialize, make music and dance in the 18th and 19th centuries. Like Congo Square itself, the exhibition is a metaphor for the process of people coming together from different areas of Africa to create a common spirit and culture. Both the book and the exhibition are dedicated to the
musicians and dancers who gathered in Congo Square, and to the artists (most whose names were not recorded) whose artworks are featured in both the exhibition and the book. The exhibition is marked by the publication of a 376-page book about NOMA’s collection of African art, produced by the New Orleans Museum of Art and published by Scala Publishers of London. Exhibition curator and catalogue editor
William Fagaly has been curator of African art at NOMA for over four decades. "Many times an exhibition will inspire a book. In this instance, it was truly African art curator William Fagaly's book that has inspired this exhibition," said New Orleans Museum of Art director Susan Taylor. Fagaly adds, “There are
over 225 color illustrations of pieces in the book, including a number of field photographs of similar works in their native Africa. This will be one of the first publications to include CT scans and x-rays revealing the contents of African terracotta sculptures.” Along with catalog entries by 48 prominent scholars from North America, Europe and Africa, containing information not published previously, the book represents the most recent research about what is known about these works of art and the state of the field. “Ancestors of Congo Square” proves to be a seminal work in the field of African art, and students, scholars, African enthusiasts and the general public alike will enjoy this book both for its educational significance
as well as its aesthetic value. The book is available in the Museum Shop for $75. (

4. BARCELONA.-   Teotihuacan, City of the Gods, the most complete exhibition ever devoted to Teotihuacan culture recently opened at Caixaforum Barcelona. The objective behind the exhibitions that “la Caixa” Foundation has devoted in recent years to the great cultures of the past is to illustrate how men and women in different places and times have attempted to answer the great universal questions, and to increase our understanding of the world by showcasing the most recent historic and archaeological research.
The most important exhibition ever devoted to Teotihuacan culture, the show is presented at CaixaForum as part of an international itinerary that has taken it to Mexico (Monterrey and Mexico DF) and several European cities, including Paris, Zurich, Berlin and Rome. Already, more than 350,000 people have taken the chance to admire the many outstanding works the show features. “The Place of the Gods” The city of Teotihuacan, located 45 kilometres from Mexico City, is one of the archaeological wonders of the world and was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987. The principal monuments in the city —the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which are connected by the Avenue of the Dead, the beautiful Palace of the Jaguars and the Temple of Quetzalcóalt— are references in universal culture. In the Nahuatl language, Teotihuacan means “place of the gods” or “place where men become gods”. Considered the most important city to be built on the American continent in pre-Hispanic times, Teotihuacan was an important cultural, political and religious centre. So much so that, over an 800-year period, one of the most important societies in pre-Cortes Mexico developed here. As a great metropolis, Teotihuacan led the way in politics, trade and ideology throughout much of Mesoamerica over the period from 150 BC to 650 AD. Such was the city’s magnificence and importance that, centuries after its collapse, it was still considered a holy place by many communities that migrated to Central Mexico. Even today, Teotihuacan continues to form an essential element in Mexican identity, whose roots are sought in the complex fabric of beliefs and customs woven by its ancient cultures. How the City of the Gods fell into complete decline continues to be a mystery. The archaeological evidence –thick layers of ash found at sites– would appear to indicate that, in around the mid-7th century AD, a huge fire razed the entire metropolitan area to the ground. However, there also exist indications of internal rebellion: sculptures were mutilated and their fragments scattered around different parts of the city, and statues of chiefs and priests were destroyed in a bid to rid the city of the elite and their representatives. Walls were even built before the pyramid steps to make it clear that access to them for ceremonies and to worship the gods was forbidden. Various possible explanations have been suggested for the collapse of Teotihuacan: internal revolt against the established power; crises caused by excessive population increase; blockage of trade routes; invasions by neighbouring peoples; and so on. Nor should we forget the fatalism that was inherent to pre-Hispanic indigenous thought: if the universe was created by the gods, then the gods will also determine the end of their creation. The Disc of Death, which was damaged in the destruction meted out on the city, conclusively evokes the terrible end of a great civilisation. Teotihuacan, City of the Gods presents more than four hundred archaeological pieces —brought together here for the first time— that form a complete vision of Teotihuacan culture. These works come from the principal museums managed by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, which include the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology and History, the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone and the Museum of the Great Temple. These pieces are complemented by others from private collections, such as that built up by the painter Diego Rivera at the House of Anahuac. The works that feature in the exhibition include mural paintings, stone sculptures, statuettes carved from obsidian, fine pottery recipients, sumptuous pre-Hispanic jewellery and ritual masks (some covered in turquoise), as well as figurines depicting important animals in Mesoamerican mythology, such as jaguars and snakes, made from different materials. The works featured in the exhibition show extraordinary refinement and a cosmopolitan spirit, open to the most important cultures in Central America. They range from objects found in the early-20th century to recent discoveries in
the Palace of Xalla, north of the Pyramid of the Sun. The most outstanding include the Great Jaguar of Xalla, an architectural sculpture (discovered just a few years ago) that conserves much of its polychrome finish; and the so-called Disc of Death, a stone sculpture that alludes to the mysterious end of that ancient civilisation. (

4. New York, When I Last Wrote to You about Africa brings together the full range of the artist’s work, from wood trays referring to traditional symbols of the Akan people of Ghana; to early ceramics from the artist’s Broken Pots series, driftwood assemblages that refer to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and wooden sculptures carved with a chainsaw; to the luminous metal wall-hangings of recent years, which have brought the artist international acclaim. In his most recent metal wall sculptures, Anatsui assembles thousands of Nigerian liquor-bottle tops into moving patterns of stunning visual impact, transforming this simple material into large shimmering forms. When I Last Wrote to You about Africa includes a large number of Anatsui’s works in metal: massive wall pieces and large-scale floor installations.   El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa is organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, and has been supported, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.  

Where and When:

Davis Museum and Cultural Center
March 30 - June 26, 2011
North Carolina Museum of Art
March 18 - June 17, 2012
Denver Art Museum
September 2 - December 1, 2012
University of Michigan Museum of Art
February 2, 2013--April 28, 2013

5. DALLAS, TEXAS Dallas, TX (  DALLAS, TX.- In the Dallas Museum of Art’s first Native American exhibition in nearly twenty years, more than 100 works of art from the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York, on view April 24, 2011, in the Museum’s Chilton Galleries. Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection explores the extraordinarily diverse forms of visual expression in Native North America. Organized by geographic culture areas, the works of art in this exhibition date from well before first European contact to the present and celebrate the continuing vitality of American Indian art. This major traveling exhibition reveals the exceptional variety of Native artistic production, ranging from the ancient ivories and ingenious modern  asks of the Arctic to the dramatic sculptural arts of the Pacific Northwest, the millennia-long tradition of abstract art in the Southwest, the refined basketry of California and the Great Basin, the famous beaded and painted works of the Plains, and the luminous styles of the Eastern Woodlands, including the Great Lakes. The DMA opened Art of the American Indians with a “Sneak Peek” Day on Saturday, April 23. In addition, the DMA’s May and June Late Nights will be themed around the exhibition. “This is a rare and wonderful chance to see an extraordinary range of Native North American works of the highest quality,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “The Thaw Collection beautifully complements the DMA’s collection of art from Native North
America, and we are delighted to offer visitors the expanded opportunity to explore these fascinating and beautiful treasures, both in the galleries and through our numerous programs and activities all summer long.”
“In Eugene Thaw’s own words, ‘Indian material culture stands rightfully with ancient art masterpieces of Asia and Europe as their equivalent,’” stated Carol Robbins, The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Curator of the Arts of the Americas and the Pacific, and curator of the Dallas presentation. “Most of the
works in the exhibition of the Thaw Collection, hailed by the New York Times as one that ‘any museum in the world should envy,’ date to the 19th century, but ancient and modern objects are also included to offer an enriching—and enduring—context.”

Upcoming Exhibitions

1. Toronto, Canada ( In a media event held today at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the ROM and the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) have announced that the two institutions will host Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World, a remarkable exhibition highlighting the ancient Mesoamerican civilization’s Classic Period (250 to 900 AD) and its notable achievements. To unveil the mysteries behind the legendary ancient civilization, the exhibition will feature nearly 250 artifacts, including sculptures, ceramics, masks and other precious works, many of which were associated with Maya temples and palaces. Mainly dating to the Maya Classic Period (250 to 900 AD), many of the exhibition’s objects are recognized as among the most important archaeological finds ever discovered. Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World is the result of an international collaboration between Canada and Mexico. The ROM’s Justin Jennings and the CMC’s Jean-Luc Pilon have joined with two Maya archaeologists from Mexico, Martha Cuevas García and Roberto Lopez Bravo, in curating the show. The exhibition explores life in the royal courts revealing the relationships that connected Maya rulers to each other, their followers, the environment, the cosmos and even the passage of time. Visitors will also learn that unlike other ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Maya civilization was never an “empire” unified by a single governing body. Instead, numerous independent city states, sharing similar traits, practices and beliefs, were all considered Maya. The Maya developed astronomy, as well as a complex calendar system and an elaborate writing system. They were also known for their highly adorned architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories. The exhibition premieres at the ROM from Saturday, November 19, 2011 to Monday, April 9, 2012 prior to traveling to the CMC from May 18 to October 28, 2012. (

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