Friday, February 11, 2011
Dark Continent: Africa as Seen in American Art Museums
Two years before opening his Barnes Foundation in 1925, Dr. Albert C. Barnes vowed that in his new institution, “negro art will have a place among the great art manifestations of all times.” Such lofty goals and noble aspirations mark much of the history of American art museums in their quest to collect, display, and represent African culture through its art. Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display, edited by Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Christa Clarke, traces that long history by collecting the institutional stories of 13 museums that have played key roles in how African art is seen in the United States. Situated outside of the Western tradition, African art poses a challenge to the conventional thinking of the standard museum model. Sincere attempts to illuminate the realm once known as the “Dark Continent” sometimes led to even more obscurity and confusion, but the story of American art museums coming to terms with the fruits of Africa is ultimately a success story, still in the making. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Dark Continent."
[Many thanks to the University of Washington Press for providing me with a review copy of Representing Africa in American Art Museums: A Century of Collecting and Display, edited by Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Christa Clarke.]