For nearly a century, the Newark Museum has been a pioneer among U.S. museums in the collecting and display of African art. Today, the Museum’s nationally known collection includes nearly 5,000 works representing artistic creativity, past and present, from throughout the continent.
Expanding Africa at the Newark Museum: New Visions, New Galleries features exceptional works of art from the Museum’s extensive and ever-growing collection. Bringing together contemporary and historic works in a range of different media, the exhibition seeks to broaden conventional ideas about African art while encouraging dialogue about its constantly evolving definition. The exhibition also introduces the Newark Museum’s initiative to expand its galleries for the exhibit and teaching of African art, which we aim to complete for the centennial of this important collection in 2015.
The Newark Museum’s unique collecting history and expansive vision for representing Africa’s rich artistic diversity is reflected in the selection of works on view. They include an exquisite 19th-century sculpture made for a Chokwe leader, mid-20th-century portraiture by Malian photographer Seydou Keita, a “fantasy coffin” from Ghana in the shape of a cell phone, and a dramatic wall hanging made of discarded metal bottle caps by internationally acclaimed artist El Anatsui. Presented variously as global, modern, fashionable, innovative, contemporary, historical and useful, together the works suggest the multiple ways we can understand Africa’s arts. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to share their own perspectives on Africa and its arts in responses that will be periodically posted on the museum walls.