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Look Again: Contemporary Perspectives on African Art
May 14, 2016 - December 4, 2016
Look Again: Contemporary Perspectives on African Art
May 14, 2016 - December 4, 2016
Get a fresh perspective on traditional African art in this selection of works from the Penn Museum.

This exhibition, which draws from the Penn Museum’s esteemed African collections, showcases works created in West and Central Africa from the 1500s to the early 1900s. It includes carved ivories and bronzes from the kingdom of Benin, Akan gold weights, Kongo power figures, Kuba textiles and vessels, Kota reliquary figures, and much more.

Look Again invites visitors to experience historical works in new ways. Meaningful connections with art can begin without a deep knowledge of a culture. Questions about works can often be answered by looking closely at materials, techniques, form, and function. The exhibition encourages visitors to find out for themselves what there is to discover and appreciate about this exceptional art. It also shows how scholars use close looking—and in some cases technology—to develop an understanding of African history.

Among the highlights are bronze plaques like those that once adorned the palace of the Oba (king) in Benin City, small sculptures used as weights to measure gold, cloths and cups decorated with geometric patterns, and bronze altar heads that commemorate past rulers. The exhibition closes with a display of reliquary guardian figures, which were made to protect the relics, or bones, of important ancestors.

This exhibition represents the fourth time since 1969 that the Philadelphia Museum of Art has displayed works from the Penn Museum’s African collections. Each time this partnership has created unique opportunities for experiencing art from Africa.


This exhibition is offered in conjunction with Creative Africa, a season devoted to African art and design. Share your experience #CreativeAfrica @philamuseum.


This exhibition was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in cooperation with the Penn Museum.


Guest curator Kristina Van Dyke. The exhibition is coordinated at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by John Vick, Project Assistant Curator.


Special Exhibitions Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building