Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection Highlights

Where: African Art Museum

When: through April 15, 2012

In 1959, Paul and Ruth Tishman began collecting African art.  When asked why they chose to do so, Paul Tishman compared it to falling in love - how could it be explained?  They set out to collect objects from every region of the continent, perhaps an impossible task.  In 1984, they sold their pieces to the Walt Disney Corporation, which was intending to display them publicly.  This project never came to fruition, and, in 2005, Disney gave the collection to the Smithsonian, where it has remained to this day.

What is on display is a small portion of the collection, about 64 items out of  525 pieces total.  This show has been "on" since 2009, and has been slated to close several different times.  I've wondered if I'd ever see it, as they kept extending its stay!  They may have a new show coming now, as it seems as if the exhibit really is closing this time.

As someone who knows next to nothing about African art, I always find it a bit intimidating to go to shows at this museum.  There's lots to see here - a dizzying array of carvings, functional items, masks, figures of both people and animals.  What occurred to me as I was leaving is that there is no painting, and as I thought about it, I realized that any time I've seen traditional African art, it's been carving, never paint on canvas.  Why that is, I know not.

Verdict: If you like African art, don't miss this exhibit.  The collection is extensive and even this sampling gives you a sense of the scale of the entire thing. 

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