Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia

In its final week at the Bowers Museum in southern California is Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia, an exhibition highlighting a dazzling array of gold artifacts from the renowned Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Colombia. The impressive assemblage includes over 200 figures and ornaments full of expression and inventiveness inspired by the natural environment and by supernatural visions. A selection of ceramic tomb figures and stone tools accompany the exhibition.

View the exhibition's official website.

Information and images courtesy of the Bowers Museum

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beaded Ceremonial Art of the Ndebele at The Israel Museum

The African art collection at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has recently been enriched by a generous donation of beaded Ndebele art. On view through December 31 is a special exhibition highlighting ceremonial body ornaments and initiation dolls made by Ndebele women for use in rites of passage and as status symbols. The intricate beadwork features common motifs such as stylized flora, houses, telegraph poles, and electric light bulbs, reflecting the Ndebele woman’s domestic concerns, her hopes for a good harvest, and her aspirations for an idealized home.

Visit the exhibition's official website.

Information and images courtesy of The Israel Museum

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sacred Images and Chiefly Works from Central Polynesia

Until August 30, the de Young Museum of San Francisco is presenting a small, carefully selected showcase of traditional Polynesian works. This exhibition of twenty rare items––which were created, used, and collected in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth centuries in the Cook Islands, Austral Islands, and the Society Islands––highlights natural materials and artistic techniques used to create images of worship as well as everyday articles. Displaying a variety of realistic and highly abstracted figurative forms, these precious works have been highly valued for their aesthetic, religious, and cultural significance by the elite of Central Polynesia as well as by the Europeans who collected them.

Visit the de Young Museum's official website.

Fan handle  -  Cook Islands  -  Early 19th century

Information and images courtesy of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matau: Traditional Hooks, Innovative Designs

From ingenious tool to ornament, souvenir, and symbol of cultural revival, this exhibition explores the changing form and function of the Māori matau (fish hook). Without the technology to extract metal, Māori originally made their hooks from wood, bone, stone, and shell. Early European explorers considered matau ‘ill-made’ and ‘of doubtful efficacy.' In fact, the design was sophisticated and highly effective, as modern-day fishers have recently rediscovered. Post-contact, Māori quickly integrated European tools and technologies with the traditional matau form that had served them so well. Meanwhile, bone and stone matau acquired new significance as highly collectible artifacts and, more recently, as personal adornment. This exhibition, on view at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand through November 14, features several exquisite examples of contemporary hei matau made from pounamu (greenstone), ivory, and wood.

View the exhibition's official website.

Information and images courtesy of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand

Thursday, June 7, 2012

African and Oceanic Art at Sotheby's - June 12, 2012

Sotheby's will put an exquisite group of African and Oceanic art and artifacts before the bidders in Paris on June 12. Highlights of the sale will include a stunning black Bete mask, a Fang reliquary figure, a cephalomorphic Igala head crest, a Yoruba Oshe Shango maternity figure, and a range of other sculptural masterworks from West and Central Africa, New Ireland, and elsewhere.

View the online catalogue.

Mask  -  Bete, Côte d'Ivoire
Reliquary figure  -  Fang, Gabon
Head crest  -  Igala, Nigeria
Oshe Shango maternity figure  -  Yoruba, Nigeria
Ivory cup with figurines  -  Sapi-Portuguese, Sierra Leone
Mask  -  Gere, Côte d'Ivoire
Power figure  -  Kongo, D.R. Congo
Female figure  -  Tiv, Nigeria
Malanggan mask  -  New Ireland
Canoe prow ornament  -  Solomon Islands

Information and images courtesy of Sotheby's

African and Oceanic Art at Christie's - June 11, 2012

Christie's will present a sale of fine African and Oceanic art and artifacts on June 11 in Paris. A number of prestigious private collections are offered in this sale. One of these is fresh to the market, a discovery that includes a group of rare works of art from Gabon, including a Fang reliquary figure purchased over fifty years ago. Three important sculptures from the collection of Russel B Aitken (notably the famous Yoruba equestrian figure exhibited in MOMA's 1935 exhibition African Negro Art), a selection of pieces from the Swiss collector Edith Hafter, and a Kongo power figure are among the other highlights. Another extraordinary discovery is a selection of unknown objects from the Marquesas Islands amassed by  Dr. Alphonse Long between 1882 and 1891.

View the online catalogue.

Reliquary figure  -  Mvai Fang, Gabon
Reliquary figure  -  Kota-Shamaye, Gabon
Mask  -  Dogon, Mali
Equestrian figure  -  Yoruba, Nigeria
Figural suspension hook  -  Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
Male figure  -  Abelam, Papua New Guinea
Mask  -  Fang, Gabon
Female figure  -  Mende, Sierra Leone

Information and images courtesy of Christie's

Monday, June 4, 2012

African Cosmos: Stellar Arts

African Cosmos: Stellar Arts will be on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African from June 20 through Dec. 9, 2012. This is the first major exhibition which explores the historical legacy of African cultural astronomy and its intersection with both traditional and contemporary African arts. The exhibition of some eighty objects considers the continent's long and rich history of astronomical observations and the ways that celestial bodies and phenomena serve as inspiration and symbol in the creation of African arts dating from ancient times to the present. The exhibition will demonstrate that observations of the heavens are part of the knowledge that informs the construction of social institutions, artistic expression and ritual practice in African cultures.

View the Smithsonian website.

Starkid, 2007  -  Owusu-Ankomah, Ghana

Zulu  -  Gavin Jantjes

Information and images courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art