AFRICAN ART: THE JOURNEY FROM ETHNOLOGICAL COLLECTION TO THE MUSEUM OF ART
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This article aims to show the transformation in the way African art is displayed in museums which has taken place over the last few decades. Over the last 70 years, from the second half of the twentieth century, the field of African Art studies, as well as the forms taken by art exhibitions, have changed considerably. Since W. Rubin’s controversial exhibition Primitivism in 20th Century Art at MoMA (1984), art originating from Africa has begun to be more widely presented in museums with a strictly artistic profile, in contrast to the previous exhibitions which were mostly located in ethnographical museums. This could be the result of the changes that have occurred in the perception of the role of museums in the vein of new museology and the concept of a “curatorial turn” within museology. But on the other hand, it seems that the recognition of the artistic values of old and contemporary art from the African continent allows art dealers to make large profits from selling such works. This article also considers the evolution of the idea of African art as a commodity and the modern form of presentations of African art objects. The current breakthrough exhibition at the Bode Museum in Berlin is thoroughly analysed. This exhibition, entitled Beyond compare, presents unexpected juxtapositions of old works of European art and African objects of worship. Thus, the major purpose of this article is to present various benefits of shifting meaning from “African artefacts” to “African objects of art,” and therefore to relocate them from ethnographic museums to art museums and galleries.
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