African Art and the West
African sculptures that are prized most highly by the international art market are those pieces that are indicated to have been used for ritual purposes. It is curious then that these same pieces are those that have also been relegated to glass cases in private collections and museums to be contemplated as “art for art’s sake.” The ideologies reflected by this transformation from ritual object to art object is one topic we examine as we look at African art and the West from the Renaissance to the present. Other topics include the importance of African art to the early modernist movement, the role of cultural tourism in preserving African indigenous art, and the trans-national commentary of contemporary African artists. This course also concerns the misappropriation of African cultural artifacts and ways in which standard museum practices de-contextualize these artifacts, distort their meaning, and perpetuate colonial hierarchies. For the term project, students will explore benefits and limitations of cybermuseology, working collaboratively to create a web exhibit to complement the Africa collection at the Penn Museum.