behind the scenes with african animals

 

Annmarie Garden staff chat with curator Bryna Freyer in the storage area of the National Museum of African Art

Annmarie Garden staff chat with curator Bryna Freyer in the storage area of the National Museum of African Art

One of the favorite parts of my job is when an Affiliate director says, “do you think we could get a tour of that new exhibition?”  It gets even better when the curator on the tour says, “and I have more objects like this in storage;  let’s take a look.”   Yeah!

I was fortunate one morning last week to find myself in this very situation.  Stacey Hann-Ruff, the director and Melissa Winslow Langley, the curator of exhibitions at Annmarie Garden and I were touring the National Museum of African Art’s really fantastic new exhibition, Artful Animals with its curator, Bryna Freyer.  The show is about how African artists use images of domestic and wild animals to create striking works of art.  The show is grouped around the type of animal (leopards, birds, snakes, elephants, dogs, etc.)  It is striking to see the same beast portrayed in different ways across various media.  (I think Melissa’s favorites were the weights.)  Observation of the animal’s conduct and distinct behaviors carry messages in performances, stories and proverbs that are captured by and through the works.  As per the exhibition’s website, “the approximately 125 works capture not only the physical characteristics of animals but also the many ways that animals, from spiders to leopards, act out our human shortcomings and successes.”

It’s that 125 number that is key, because the object list originally started out at around 400!  This meant of course, that lots more amazing artifacts were in storage.  We got to see additional, stunning works - from street paintings on wood to tall equestrian sculptures to a variety of hats featuring animal parts (like porcupine quills.)

An animal mosaic in fabric, behind the scenes at African Art

An animal mosaic in fabric, behind the scenes at African Art

The exhibition will be up until February 2010, and is well worth a visit (even if you don’t go behind the scenes!)