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National Museum of African Art Presents “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone”

Exhibition Honors the Work of Curator and Connoisseur William Siegmann

Dan or Mano Liberia Mask with shoulder cloth, first half of 20th century Wood, animal fur, feathers (of the great blue turaco, Corythaeola cristata), cotton, beads Overall: 40 ½ x 15 x 18 in. (102.87 x 38.1 x 45.72 cm.) Wood mask only: 8 x 5 ¼ in. (20.32 x 13.34 cm.) Wood mask with surrounding fur: 11 ½ x 8 ¼ in. (29.21 x 20.96 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.1

Dan or Mano
Liberia
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.1

“Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone” will be on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art April 9 through Aug. 17. The exhibition features some 70 artworks from the collection of William Siegmann (1943–2011) that survey the traditional arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Siegmann, a former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum, lived and worked in Liberia from 1965 to 1987. While there, he began collecting art from Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Siegmann’s collection, particularly rich in masks, provides an overview of the region’s traditional art forms, including numerous objects used in men’s and women’s initiation associations, jewelry and prestige objects of cast brass and horn, small stone figures dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries, and woven and dyed textiles.

The exhibition, making its debut at the National Museum of African Art, is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minnesota. It is accompanied by a scholarly catalog that includes an essay on connoisseurship by Christine Mullen Kreamer, the National Museum of African Art’s deputy director and chief curator. “It was my way to honor my friendship with Bill and to recognize his important role as a scholar and connoisseur,” said Kreamer.

With an emphasis on connoisseurship and the identification of artworks to particular artists or workshops, the exhibition reveals the deeply personal and scholarly connections forged by Siegmann during his many years of field research in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Exhibition Highlights

  • 10 Sande society helmet masks, including one with a complete costume, that allow visitors to examine the range of forms, styles and decorative motifs that a collector and connoisseur tends to appreciate when building a private collection
  • Artworks of wood, brass and natural fiber that have been identified to particular artists or workshops—countering the anonymity that is often associated with Africa’s traditional arts
  • Horn prestige objects inscribed in Arabic and in Vai, a rarely illustrated indigenous script from Liberia

“First Look” Tour

Kreamer will lead a “first look” tour of the exhibition Sunday, April 13, at 2 p.m. The tour is first come, first served. Participants should meet in the museum pavilion before the appointed time.

About the Curator

The exhibition was developed by Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers, curator of African art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Kreamer served as coordinating curator for the exhibition at the National Museum of African Art. Her exhibitions and publications explore art, ritual, gender, African systems of knowledge and museum practice. In addition to research in Togo, she has worked on museum training projects in Ghana and Vietnam. She has written articles, essays and books on traditional and contemporary African arts.

Catalog

A fully illustrated exhibition catalog, developed by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, will be available in the museum store in the spring.

Educational Programs

The exhibition will be accompanied by tours, scholarly lectures, a gallery guide and interactive educational programs and events designed to help visitors learn about arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is the nation’s premier museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.Note to Editors: Photos from “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone” may be downloaded by visiting the museum’s media website and clicking on “press room.” To arrange an interview with the curator, contact Eddie Burke at (202) 633-4660 or burkee@si.edu.
ftp://nmaf-art-guest:9getfiles9@ftp.si.edu/

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