Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art

20 October 2019–8 March 2020

Exhibition Overview

Clevleeand mask.jpeg

Mask, early 1900s. Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yaka, early 20th century. Wood, cloth, fibers, pigment; overall: 47 cm (18 1/2 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Katherine C. White 1969.8

Second Careers explores the connections between historical African art and contemporary practice through a selection of exemplary highlights from the museum’s African collection and loaned works. CMA objects from nine cultures in Central and West Africa––male and female figures and masks, masquerade costume, a hunter’s tunic, and a prestige throne––are juxtaposed with large-scale installations, sculptures, and photographs by six leading contemporary African artists.

The exhibition considers the status of canonical African art objects when they begin their “second careers” upon entering museum collections. It simultaneously explores contemporary modes of artistic production in Africa that employ mediums that once served other purposes in everyday life. Focusing more on the conceptual connection between the two contexts of African art, the exhibition considers how contemporary African artists from different generations draw inspiration from and seek transformative encounters with the historical canon. These contexts provide a critical understanding of African art, past and present.

(Photo courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art.)

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