SIGHTLINES presents new modes of displaying and viewing African art and material culture. At the heart of the presentation are a group of historical metalworks from sub-Saharan Africa, drawn from the traveling exhibition Peace, Power & Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa, organized by Susan Cooksey, formerly of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida. We are honored to host these emissaries from the past, appreciate the responses of visitors who have encountered them in this and other institutions, and recognize the scholarship that has accompanied them.
In order to contribute to ongoing conversations about how museums exhibit African art, we must do more than celebrate the beauty of these metalworks and share their rich histories. We also need to consider the ethics of how we view and care for these works and our obligations toward the communities connected to them. For this reason, we have chosen to center the profound and generative relationship between historical African arts and material culture and the work of contemporary artists. Rather than exhibit these two realms separately, we embrace their connections and the dynamic kinship between past and present.
Here, we offer pairings of historical objects with art by thirteen contemporary makers working in relation to the African continent or Black Diaspora. We have introduced these pairings with seven themes to reflect the diverse material worlds that the artworks inhabit: EXTRACTION, SPECULATIVE ARCHITECTURE, CURRENCY, DEVOTION, EMBODYING POWER, DOMESTICITY, and PROTECTION. Please treat these connections as invitations to envision your own sightlines through the exhibition.