Conversations presents selected pieces from the Cosby collection, including works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Keith Morrison, Faith Ringgold, Augusta Savage, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Alma Thomas. With the exception of one work of art, the Cosby collection has never been loaned or seen publicly and only rarely and selectively published. These and other works of African American art are placed in thematic dialogue with African traditional works of art, including a Kongo female figure with child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a lidded bowl from Nigeria by the Yoruba master artist Olowe of Ise, and a Nuna butterfly mask from Burkina Faso, and with modern and contemporary works of art by artists, including Fodé Camara from Senegal, Godfried Donkor from Ghana, and William Kentridge from South Africa. The exhibition and its accompanying publication are organized to explore intersecting ideas about history, creativity, power, identity, and artistry in ways that resonate with people the world over.
One of the world’s preeminent private collections of African American art has its first public viewing currently at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue brings together artworks from two world-class collections: the National Museum of African Art and the Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr. Collection. The exhibition remains on view through early 2016, and 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.