Exceptional Aesthetics at Christie’s
Un oeil à part: collection d’un esprit libre (An Eye Apart: The Collection of a Free Sprit), the sale to be held at Christie’s on December 10 and 11, 2020, celebrates the idea that the collection is a story telling. More than 200 works from twelve collecting areas—design, painting, the arts of the Far East, etc.—tell the tale of the aesthetic path followed by a French collector whose curiosity, taste, and eclecticism were rivaled only by his personal discretion. Although relatively sparsely represented, the arts of Africa and Oceania are still noteworthy here because each of the six pieces coming up at this Christie’s sale is so unique. One of them is a crouching Kanyok figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is striking for the way the coiffure is rendered, its texture contrasting with the smooth body. A massive and imposing male Senufo deble figure from Côte d’Ivoire is a perfect counterpoint to a Bamana ciwara crest, with its wonderfully orchestrated negative spaces. Sharp lines predominate in the composition of these works, but they make way for softer ones in the case of the undulating curves and ochre tones found on an April River shield from the Upper Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, which is a testimony to the remarkable skill and talent of the artists of the Pacific.
The Impermanence of Things
After many months of renovation, the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel has entirely revamped its space and is reconsidering its holdings in terms of their wealth and variety, without confining them to purely ethnographic, geographic, ethnic, or functional considerations. It has asked and is endeavoring to answer the questions that twenty-first-century ethnographic collections must pose in order to remain relevant. As a start to this process, the museum has opened a major new exhibition at Villa de Pury titled "L’impermanence des choses" ("The Impermanence of Things"). This show is made up of nine modular spaces in which the museum’s holdings are used to put contemporary questions into perspective. In the “Poids” (Weight) section, Asante goldweights refer to the moral burden of the connection between the history of colonization and ethnographic collections, as well as the power relationships between peoples and the weight of the obsessive hoarding of objects, knowledge, and archives. In the “Plumes” (Feathers) section, headdresses from Papua New Guinea are presented within the décor of a Parisian cabaret, since such items are equated with spectacle and show. “Acteurs, Ambassades, Bazars, Artistes” (Actors, Embassies, Bazaar, Artists) and “Regards” (Views) both emphasize that human beings and material possessions are always changing, as are the ways in which they are perceived.
Sous l’oeil de Malick Sidibé Et un chant contre le sida
Malick Sidibé (1935–2016), a famous Malian photographer, was granted the Hasselblad Award in 2003, among other prizes, and received a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. He is the first artist to earn these two prestigious distinctions. The Musée Barbier-Mueller is paying tribute to this photographer, whose body of work the visitor will first discover through a dozen unpublished portraits, taken within the framework of a competition featuring songs against AIDS, organized in Mali by Monique Barbier-Mueller in 2005. Better-known prints, displayed in the basement, bring the Mali of the 1960s–1970s back to life and bear witness to the kind, curious, and spirited gaze with which Malick Sidibé regarded his peers. The museum wishes to showcase Mali, while at the same time promoting its traditional arts. Extraordinary pieces, including pendants, ornaments and figurines, masks, seats, and statues belonging to the Soninke, Dogon, and Bamana peoples, to cite only a few, are thus exhibited on the mezzanine. Brought together in the museum for the first time, these works will show the artists’ admirable creativity, while opening a window on the many rites and beliefs they sustain. Photo : ©Malick Sidibé. Courtesy Galerie Magnin-A, Paris.
Museum der Kulturen
The Museum der Kulturen in Basel is planning a show about objects that generally reside in its storage. This is an innovative concept and one that will interest many people who are eager to know what goes on behind the scenes at a museum. It also reveals how objects that are not under the bright lights all the time are housed and care for. These days, many of these treasures are often the subject of controversy— they may have been stolen, unjustly removed from their contexts, or be made of materials that are now prohibited. What was earlier sought after is the subject of criticism today. How must these sensitive objects be handled? These issues and more will be explored by the museum beginning on March 22, 2019.
Amazonia by the Sea
NANTES—For a number of years now, the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes du Château des Ducs de Bretagne has been presenting an interestingly varied program of events. Perhaps its proximity to the ocean connects the city’s history to distant horizons. This season, it’s off to Amazonia, and from June 15, 2019–January 19, 2020, the museum will show Amazonie. Le chamane et la pensée de la forêt (Amazonia: The Shaman and the Philosophy of the Forest), the sensational exhibition that was seen a few years ago at the Musée Ethnographique de Genève. This is another opportunity to see featherwork marvels from Amazonia from the notable collection of this Swiss museum. These objects reveal a world of shamanic practices and a symbiosis with nature. They also provide an excellent lesson in an age in which the importance of ecologically sound practices is becoming ever more immediate.
A new installation of the African collection at the Hood Museum
A new installation of the African collection at the Hood Museum is presenting the ways in which the aesthetic values and worldviews of different African societies in the past are still relevant to the contemporary social imagery of the vast majority of people in Africa. Whereas some museums continue to treat canonical African art as vectors of source cultures, this installation emphasizes the individual autonomy of the objects on view. The selection is organized around six themes: “Figures,” “Parliament of Masks,” “Power Objects,” “Transitions,” “Art of Small Things,” and “Art of Every Day.” Curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Shifting Lenses: Collecting Africa at Dartmouth will be on view until January 19, 2020.
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.
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!
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.
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.