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Hidden Power in African Art

May 21, 2014-January 17, 2015
Location: Nathan Cummings Building for Modern and Contemporary Art
Curator: Dorit Shafir

African sculpture has had a strong impact on modern European art since the early 20th century, and yet the objects were created for ritual and religious purposes, rather than artistic ones. This fascinating exhibition presents African wooden sculptures and masks, believed to be receptacles for mystical and spiritual forces. To enable people to harness these powers for their own benefit, magical elements were added in the form of natural materials, which were considered more significant than the statues themselves. Along with the masks and sculptures, this exhibition reveals the symbolic importance of these materials, and the ways in which they were used. The objects on display come from the Museum’s holdings, as well as private collections.

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African sculpture has had a strong impact

on modern European art since the early 20th

century, and yet the objects were created

for ritual and religious purposes, rather than

artistic ones. This fascinating exhibition

presents African wooden sculptures and

masks, believed to be receptacles for

mystical and spiritual forces. To enable

people to harness these powers for their

own benefit, magical elements were added

in the form of natural materials, which

were considered more significant than the

statues themselves. Along with the masks

and sculptures, this exhibition reveals the

symbolic importance of these materials, and

the ways in which they were used.

The objects on display come from the

Museum’s holdings, as well as private

collections.