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Several dozen African masks, sculptures, objects and textiles will be presented for sale in an exhibition curated by Douglas Drake with loans and consignments from various collectors and dealers around the country. Drake has been dealing with African and other ethnographic art since 1984, mounting two encyclopedic African shows in Kansas City in the 1980s and one in his New York Gallery in 1990.
The show’s title refers to Picasso’s sense of “magic” in African and other tribal art which is so wonderfully explored in the Nelson-Atkins’ concurrent exhibition, “Through the Eyes of Picasso” (through April 8).
Following his visit to the Trocadero Museum of Ethnographic Art in Paris, in 1907, Picasso was said to remark, “Men had made those masks and other objects for a sacred purpose, a magic purpose, as a kind of mediation between themselves and the unknown hostile forces that surrounded them, in order to overcome their fear by giving it a form and an image.”
African peoples historically do not conceive of their indigenous creations as “art” in the common Western modern sense of principally non-utilitarian beautiful creations.
Instead, their art is inextricably bound with practical or religious or social practices, such as praying for a good harvest and a good hunt; memorializing special births, invoking help from ancestors, signifying status within an official council or secret society, finding the right partner in marriage; enforcing promises, chasing away suffering and evil, giving thanks; making dolls children to play with or learn from; and clothing for ceremonial and other special occasions.
Some of the art objects selected for this exhibition and sale include:
- Masks of wood and other materials like brass, cloth, beads, animal and vegetal materials — from the Bamana (chi-wara antelope), Ibibio (Mame Wata), Dan, Baule, Lega, Marka, Guro, Guere, and Grebo cultures
- Wooden figures from the Yoruba (ibeji twin figure), Kongo (nkisi power figure), Mossie (dolls) , Dogon, Baule, Luba, Hemba, and Krahn cultures
- Textiles from the Mbuti (pygmy) and the Kuba cultures
The oldest artworks in the exhibition will date from the early 20th C., the most recent from the late 20th C., and most of them from mid-20th C. Size of objects will range of 6 to 30 inches in any direction; the fabrics will range from 24 to 180 inches in any direction. There will be a wide range of prices.
A label for each work will clarify country of origin, as well as the tribal culture or style, approximate creation date, and reference to previous owners and expert opinions.