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Current Exhibitions


Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue

November 9, 2014 – January 24, 2016

One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art will have its first public viewing later this year at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue brings together artworks from the world-class collections of the National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. The exhibition, which opens at the museum Nov. 9 and remains on view through early 2016, is a major part of the museum’s 50th anniversary, celebrating its unique history and contributions toward furthering meaningful dialogue between Africa and the African diaspora.


Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria

September 17, 2014 – September 13, 2015

Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria opened Sept. 17. This major exhibition showcases the photographs of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911–1994), one of Nigeria’s premiere photographers and the first official photographer to the royal court of Benin. Alonge’s historic photographs document the rituals, pageantry, and regalia of the court for more than half a century and provide rare insight into the early history and practice of studio photography in West Africa.

African Mosaic

African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection


A towering and visually striking sculpture of Haitian leader Toussaint Louverture by contemporary Senegalese artist Ousmane Sow is the centerpiece of an exhibition of important acquisitions of the past decade at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. African Mosaic: Selections from the Permanent Collection showcases museum purchases and gifts and provides a glimpse into the collecting opportunities and decisions that exist for art museums.

African Mosaic: 50th Anniversary room

In 1963, during the height of the civil rights movement, retired U.S. Foreign Service officer Warren M. Robbins (1923–2008) established the Center for Cross Cultural Understanding to “show the rich creative heritage of Africa, and to underscore the implications of this heritage in America’s quest for interracial understanding.” The following year, Robbins expanded his vision and opened the Museum of African Art. Originally housed in a Capitol Hill town house once owned by the great intellectual, abolitionist, former slave, and statesman, Frederick Douglass, the museum became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1979 by an act of Congress and was renamed the National Museum of African. Over the course of its five decades, the museum has become home to more than 12,000 works of art that speak to both the talent and skill of diverse African artists and communities, and the unique history of this institution and the individuals who have helped to shape it.


Walt Disney–Tishman African Art Collection Highlights


Donated to the museum in 2005, the Walt Disney–Tishman Collection is known for its unique and rare works of traditional African art from throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The collection has been instrumental in defining the field of African art history in the United States and abroad.