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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Presents African Art Beyond the Modernist Lens

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents African Art Beyond the Modernist Lens, on view through December 23.

Derived from the Museum’s growing collection of African art, the exhibition African Art: Beyond the Modernist Lens examines the way African art is currently perceived and displayed in Western museum settings.

Once considered fetishes, African traditional sculptures were displayed in 20th century galleries, arranged alongside European and American products in a manner that emphasized their artistic qualities rather than their local meaning and use. The exhibition suggests that such early displays often influenced the collection of certain types of African objects, particularly those that appealed to Western notions of artistic elegance, abstract form, and exotic appearance. However, these standards had very little to do with African aesthetic values that are expressed in ritual and quotidian objects alike. African craftsman used these prescribed concepts of beauty and associated motifs to create objects that express both artistic individuality and differences in regional styles.

Curated by Benjamin Ray, Adjunct Curator of African Art

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Arts$.

Image: Mask (mukudj), 20th c. Punu peoples, Gabon Wood, pigment, 10 1⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 x 9 1⁄2 inches Gift of Bob Bronson, 1977.58.6

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
With a collection of art that spans the globe and more than 5,000 years, plus a wide array of special exhibitions, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is recognized as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. The museum’s permanent collection encompasses more than 22,000 works of art, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside Russia and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is home to acclaimed collections of English Silver, Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British Sporting and Contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its 74-year history. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus fun after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. General admission is always free.

For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit

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