I’ve been to Philadelphia 2 times. The first time was to visit The Barnes Foundation in Merion and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. The second time was a repeat of the first just 5 or 6 years later. The after the opening of The Met’s show African Art, New York and the Avant-Garde it was off to Philadelphia with a group from the Brooklyn Museum who are interested in African art. More
Currently on view at The Met is a small, focused exhibition African Art, New York & the Avant-Garde. The photo above best describes what the show aims to do: put you in the home and atmosphere of the art patrons who were bold enough to collect African art juxtaposing it with Modern and Contemporary art just after the New York Armory show in 1913. There are approximately 40 masks and sculptures from West and Central Africa along with photos, paintings, drawings and sculpture by Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, Constantin Brancusi, Francis Picabia, Diego Rivera, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, among others.
I wish that everyone would go see it, especially a nasty man who came into the gallery (full disclosure: I work in an art gallery that specializes in antique tribal art from Africa and Oceania) and told me that all the masks and figures look the same and there is no way that Picasso or Matisse were influenced by African art. I cited Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, as an example but he refused to believe me. The Museum of Modern Art who owns the painting even states on the gallery label next to the painting:
“Picasso drew on sources as diverse as Iberian sculpture, African tribal masks, and El Greco’s painting to make this startling composition.”
Needless to say the man walked out of the gallery unconvinced and I felt a little sad for him because there are so many things in the world that are influenced and tied to each other, as disparate as they seem, if he would only open his mind a bit. Anyhoo. More