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Particular Histories: Provenance Research in African Arts

Veranda Post, Nigeria Yoruba, UCLA

ABOVE: Veranda post, opo. Yoruba; possibly Ekiti or Efon-Alaye, Nigeria. Before 1925.
Wood, pigment.
Fowler Museum at UCLA, gift of the Wellcome Trust, inv. X65.1393.


LOS ANGELES—Provenance research traces the past movement of a given object through different cultural, economic, and political contexts.

Particular Histories at the Fowler Museum at UCLA through November 13, 2022, presents a number of provenance case studies drawn from African material dating to the early twentieth century that came to the Fowler Museum from the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853–1936).

The exhibition highlights recent findings made through a combination of conservation, material science, archival research, and curatorial methods that shed light on shifting perceptions of the objects’ value over time while offering some surprising revelations. These range from fictions concocted to assert certain works’ “authenticity” to new understanding of how some artists developed innovative designs tailored to local and foreign buyers.

This exhibition emerges from a three-year project, funded by the Mellon Foundation that aims to unravel the histories of African works at the Fowler and begins reckoning with the legacy of European colonization and its influence on the objects’ use and perception. Multidisciplinary provenance research also lays the groundwork for building connections with communities of origin.
 

FOWLER MUSEUM at UCLA

Fon, Dahomey, UCLA

ABOVE: Figure group. Fon; Dahomey, Republic of Benin. Before 1931.
Brass, wood.
Fowler Museum at UCLA, gift of the Wellcome Trust, inv. X65.5793.

ere egungun mask, Nigeria Yoruba, UCLA

ABOVE: Helmet mask, ere egungun, attributed to the family of Sokan Akinyoke. Yoruba; Ikoto Quarter, Abeokuta, Nigeria. Before 1911.
Wood, pigment, laundry bluing, metal.
Fowler Museum at UCLA, gift of the Wellcome Trust, inv. X65.8237.

Throne, Cameroon, UCLA

ABOVE: Throne. Kedjom Ketinguh, Cameroon. Before 1908.
Wood.
Fowler Museum at UCLA, gift of the Wellcome Trust, inv. X65.1624.

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