KAM is excited to open its newly designed gallery devoted to the arts of Africa. Visitors will be welcomed by a completely renovated space with a new interpretive framework, casework, lighting, layout, and entranceways into the gallery. The thematically organized installation is inspired by the idea that objects can “tell” multiple stories, not only about themselves but also about the broader social contexts and often fraught global histories through which they have journeyed. Indeed, as a 21st century museum, KAM is committed to raising awareness about the “life histories” of African artworks, as well as the museum’s role in shaping our understanding of those histories.
The installation will display approximately 70 artworks from KAM’s African holdings, many of which have not been on view for decades. An 18th-century bronze hip mask from the Kingdom of Benin testifies both to the mastery of the bronze casting workshops of the Oba’s court and to the illicit means by which many such objects were taken from the Oba’s palace during the British punitive expedition of 1897. Another collection highlight includes a grouping of small, intimate works by Chokwe, Kuba, Dogon, and Pende artists that were made to be held, carried, or serve otherworldly forces. These objects invite close looking and possess a grace that transcends their modest dimensions.