Installed in 2012, Encounters was the first of KAM’s permanent collection galleries to be fully renovated and reconceived to reflect the museum’s commitment to exploring the global connections and epistemological frames through which objects move and come to be known in the world.
The completely redesigned space, lighting, iPads, and signature casework invite visitors to see African artworks not only as visually compelling in their own right, but also as objects of encounter that can tell stories about the broader social contexts and often fraught histories through which they have journeyed. The gallery’s thematic groupings and 11 visitor-activated videos of masquerades, narrative vignettes, and artist interviews assist in the “telling” of those stories and draw out resonances among the objects on display. Gallery themes include: “The Power of Script;” “The Creativity of Power;” “An African Avant-Garde;” “Reading the Body;” “The Art of Small Things;” “Objects of Encounter;” “The Art of Performance;” “Fraught Histories;” and “Orisha: Yoruba Art, Spirit, and Diaspora.”
Encounters features highlights from KAM’s collection of historical African art, the majority of which is from west and central Africa and was generously donated to the museum by the Richard J. Faletti family and Cecilia and Irwin Smiley. Displayed in conversation with these historical works are several recent acquisitions by Yeliman Fall, Wosene Worke Kosrof, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Magdelene Odundo, and Victor Ekpuk, all of which attest to the long and active participation of artists from Africa in the international contemporary arts scene.
Though a “permanent” gallery, Encounters remains fresh with ongoing object rotations, and the addition of new themes or videos to the iPads. We hope this installation, as it changes over time, will allow for encounters of all kinds, including those that challenge misperceptions and inspire new lines of inquiry about the historical depth, global reach and contemporary relevance of African creativity.
Ricker Library of Architecture and Art has developed a library guide that includes details about work contained in this gallery, as well as supplementary materials and curator-recommended reading: Library Guide to Encounters: The Arts of Africa