The strength of the museum’s collection, which is the foundation of its programs and the primary vehicle through which the museum carries out its mission, lies in its unmatched depth and diversity. It is a collection that embraces all of the artistic expressions of Africa’s artists, from antiquity to the current moment.
Permanent Collection Facts
The permanent collection cared for by the museum includes more than 12,000 works of art and contains a broad range of works from throughout the continent of Africa and its diaspora, in all media across time periods and geographic origin. Collection strengths include, but are not limited to, sculpture, particularly masks and figures; paintings and works on paper; textiles, costumes, and jewelry; furniture and decorative objects; and architectural elements. With more than 10% of the collection consisting of works from the 20th and 21st centuries, the museum houses the largest and one of the oldest publicly held collections of 20th- and 21st-century African art. In addition, through the efforts of its ongoing Women’s Initiative, over 20% of the known and named artists represented in the collection identify as women—a percentage the museum actively seeks to increase.
The Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives holds over 550,000 photographs, archival materials, and digital media, and the Warren M. Robbins Library has well over 65,000 books and journals in its collection.
Provenance at the National Museum of African Art
Learn more about the museum’s work in researching collection provenance—and contribute tips in its efforts.