Every curator creates a list of objects that would best complement a museum collection; it’s called an acquisitions plan or policy. Basically, this is a wish list. It represents the breadth and depth the curator thinks the museum should aim for.
Artist's rendering of the African art gallery expansion in East Building
Every museum works hard to make sure the collection grows to fulfill this plan. But, sometimes buying work or finding donations is a long road. Loans are the way both public and private collections enrich every art museum and installation. In fact part of my curatorial plan was to designate two walls in the expanded African art gallery
(set to open in June) that highlight North Carolina collections and connections.
The new, expanded African art gallery is set to open in June 2017 in our East Building.
The first of these walls is a rotating space called the North Carolina Collections wall. This space will rotate every one to two years and feature a collection or collections. The first rotation for this space is one the entire NCMA team is very proud of: It focuses on 10 works from the Bennett College art collection recently donated from the estate of Warren M. Robbins by his widow, Lydia Puccinelli Robbins. This past December Johnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, spoke at the NCMA and emphasized the symbolic importance of highlighting this collection and the legacy of Bennett College, one of our nation’s only historically black women’s colleges.
Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, interim president at Bennett College, stated: “Bennett College is pleased to be a part of this exciting African art exhibition. The sharing of these items from our African art collection undoubtedly enhance the public’s awareness of the uniqueness of this form of art as well as an appreciation for the preservation and exhibition of various art cultures. We welcome the opportunity to continue the collaboration with the North Carolina Museum of Art in future exhibitions.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Bamana Peoples, Mali, Female Figure (Mother and Child), early 20th century, wood, H. 40 1/2 x W. 8 1/4 x D. 7 1/2 in., Bennett College
A highlight of the Bennett collection loan is a mother-and-child figure worthy of any international collection. This mother-and-child created by a Bamana artist represents the ideal woman and mother. Her extraordinary wisdom and power are evident in her amulet-embellished hat. The initiation society that commissioned this work in Mali is called Jo, and they refer to impressive sculptures like this as “Things to look at” (mafile fenw
). This is one of the highest praises that can be given to a carved sculpture of this type, and we’re very lucky to have this piece on loan. This blog is a great place for me to mention the amazing Bamana female figure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
that is very similar in style to the work on loan.
Chewa Peoples, Malawi, Mask, circa 1950, wood, feathers, cloth, and paint, H. 43 x W. 20 x D. 9 in., Courtesy of Laurel Birch Kilgore
Even as we submit final wall texts and work on installations, future rotations are already being developed for our North Carolina Collections wall. Museums always need to work at least three years ahead of any actual installation, so this space is living and developing behind the scenes. And this isn’t the only work on loan. Further loans are found throughout the gallery. A particularly fine set of Chewa masks and ceramics will be on loan from Laurel Birch Kilgore, a top expert in Malawian masquerades. The art objects were brought from her home literally across the Park from the Museum and have been conserved. I can’t wait to see them installed.
The new installation of African art at the NCMA has been touched by so many in a community of North Carolina African art scholars and enthusiasts. I am so grateful for all of the support I’ve received and want to thank all of the scholars and lenders that have helped make this reinstallation effort a success.