August 4, 2010 — Once considered fetishes, African traditional sculptures were displayed in 20th-century galleries, arranged alongside European and American products in a manner that emphasized their artistic qualities rather than their local meaning and use.
"African Art: Beyond the Modernist Lens," which opens at the University of Virginia Art Museum on Aug. 14 and runs through Dec. 23, examines the way African art is currently perceived and displayed in Western museum settings.
Derived from the museum's growing collection of African art, the exhibition suggests that such early displays often influenced the collection of certain types of African objects, particularly those that appealed to Western notions of artistic elegance, abstract form and exotic appearance.
However, these standards had very little to do with African aesthetic values that are expressed in ritual and everyday objects alike. African craftsman used these prescribed concepts of beauty and associated motifs to create objects that express both artistic individuality and differences in regional styles.
The exhibition is curated by Benjamin Ray, adjunct curator of African art and U.Va. professor of religious studies.
The exhibition is made possible through the support of Arts$.
The U.Va. Art Museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.