Before Time Began at the Fondation Opale
LENS—On view through the end of March 2020, an exhibition titled Before Time Began will be at the Fondation Opale. This is the inaugural show of a new venue for the sharing of cultural art, located in the snowy, high-altitude environment of Lens, Switzerland. This show is on contemporary Aboriginal painting and examines the question of the origins of this art form that is simultaneously traditional and contemporary, since it echoes ancestral knowledge and belief while at the same time exploring social issues of the present. This mixing of past and present also represents a way for artists and viewers to evoke dream-time, both as a process of creation and as an ideology.
20 Years: The Acquisitions of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
From September 24, 2019, through January 26, 2020, 20 ans. Les acquisitions du musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (20 Years: The Acquisitions of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac) will be presented under the direction of curator Yves Le Fur. Although the museum did not actually open its doors to the public until 2006, the work related to developing its collection began in earnest in 1998 when the Musée de l’Homme and the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie merged. This was a colossal project, which also raised many questions about the history and heritage of these artworks, their proper place in the French museum landscape, their development, and the nature of their identity. With this anniversary exhibition, the Musée du Quai Branly traces the first twenty years of its history and examines its choices, policies, and future ambitions. The show is also an opportunity to honor the donors who made these acquisitions possible by supporting an institution dedicated to the preservation, protection, and promotion of the world’s patrimony. The museum currently holds more than 75,000 objects, including graphic works and photographs. Voice is given to museum curators and professionals, and they offer another view of the museum. After twenty years of acquisitions, the most recent piece to enter the collection has done so almost as if to illustrate the theme of the show, thanks to its purchase by French government preemption at an auction on May 24. Ecce Agnus Dei, this magnificent and extremely rare featherwork is a syncretic blend of Christian iconography and Aztec techniques and symbolizes and exemplifies the cultural fusion that has been the mainstay of the museum’s activities since it was founded.
Who is Africa?
STUTTGART—In an extension of the exhibition at the BOZAR Museum in Brussels, the Linden-Museum is taking a new and critical view of its own collection of African art. It is revisiting how these pieces were collected, classified, and separated into different categories according to period and fashion. The story that emerges is so complex that the question arises: Who is Africa? Wo ist Afrika? is a new semi-permanent installation that features pieces from Cameroon, the Congo Basin, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania, most of which date from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. In it, the museum reconsiders its own objects and endeavors to understand and reconstruct their history, their context, and their significance in the world today. The show also examines the place of the museum today and that of the artworks it holds.
Coiffure, Coifs, and Hats
LYON—Headgear is in the spotlight at the Musée des Confluences in Lyon. Its present exhibition honors Antoine de Galbert, founder of the famous and now muchmissed Maison Rouge in Paris, by presenting his impressive collection of coifs, headdresses, and hats, which he donated to the museum. Hats and headwear are more than fashion accessories and protection against the elements. In many cultures, they denote status, rank, or association and may have layered meanings. The head is our intellectual center and seat of the soul and the will, as many peoples have understood. Decorating or covering the head protects our very essence, which undoubtedly is why nearly all cultures have forms of head decoration. Nearly 350 pieces of the 550 pieces that were donated are included in this magnificent exhibition, through which the Musée des Confluences is thanking and honoring a collector and a man of taste for this wonderful gift. The installation is an extensive journey through time and space, from ancient Peru to twentieth-century Africa, “a static voyage, [an] internal and mental adventure” that highlights tremendous human cultural and aesthetic diversity through a simple object of daily life. Hats off!
Return of Alutiiq treasures
Last July 9, the Alutiiq Museum celebrated a special homecoming: Two Kodiak Alutiiq masks collected by Alphonse Pinart in the nineteenth century were brought from Boulogne-sur-Mer back to their native land of Alaska. This event is one element of a partnership of cultural exchange between France and the United States. Two similar masks were sent from Kodiak to France on a five-year loan, another part of a refreshing story of intercultural recognition and sharing. The masks will be on display in both museums until April of 2023.
American Indian images, names, and stories infuse American history and contemporary life. The images are everywhere, from the Land O’Lakes butter maiden to the Cleveland Indians’ mascot and from classic Westerns and cartoons to episodes of Seinfeld and South Park. American Indian names are everywhere too, from state, city, and street names to the Tomahawk missile. And the familiar historical events of Pocahontas’s life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn remain popular reference points in everyday conversations. Pervasive, powerful, and at times demeaning, together these reveal how Indians have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States and the rest of the world. "Americans" highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since before the country began. Objects range from a 1948 Indian Chief to commercial graphics and promotional items with Indian imagery, to Native American artifacts associated with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an event that unexpectedly contributed to the “branding” of Indian imagery in Western consciousness. Americans is a thoughtful examination of identity, change, and cultural impact.