Elephant mask video still, Encounters: The Arts of Africa at Krannert Art Museum

Encounters: The Arts of Africa

On View

Curator: Allyson Purpura

In October 2012, Krannert Art Museum opened Encounters: The Arts of Africa, a renovated gallery dedicated to KAM's African Art collection.

The completely redesigned space invites visitors to see exhibited objects not only as visually compelling works of art in their own right, but also as objects of encounter that can “tell” stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught global histories through which they have journeyed.

The gallery is organized thematically and many displays include touch screens that contain video clips of artist interviews, masquerades, and descriptive vignettes. These bring the “telling” of African stories into the museum experience and draw out resonances among the objects on view.

Encounters features artworks predominantly from west and central Africa, most of which were generously donated to the museum by the Richard J. Faletti family and Cecilia and Irwin Smiley.

Displayed in conjunction with these pieces are works by several African and African American studio-based artists that blur the boundaries between “traditional” and “contemporary” art practices. Also featured are outstanding artworks lent by museums and private collectors that complement the visual and narrative power of the objects with which they have been partnered.

We hope this gallery will encourage encounters of all kinds, including those that challenge assumptions and inspire new lines of inquiry about the global reach and contemporary relevance of African creativity.


Ricker Library of Art and Architecture has created a library guide for this exhibition, containing information on the artist's life and work. It contains bibliography, images, and online resources.
Exhibition Library Guide

News Release: May 7, 2014 — Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign was the receipient of a 2013 Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) Award for Excellence for its permanent collection installation
Encounters: The Arts of Africa, curated by Allyson Purpura. The installation was awarded co-First Prize in the annual AAMC Awards of Excellence for exhibitions organized by museums with operating budgets of under $4 million.
KAM Blog | Download full release

  Subscribe Calendar Donate Contact


Elephant masqueraders
in Bandjoun, Cameroon
, 1985. Photo by Claude Pavard