African art in New York

Still at the Met (yes, I spent more than a few hours there!), I saw a small but interesting exhibition on African art that was acquired by the New York avant-garde during the 1910s and 1920s. African art was introduced in New York by the Armory show in 1913.

It was first bought by European dealers due to their geographic proximity, before coming to New York via Mexican artist and gallery owner Marius de Zayas.

Most of the artefacts in the exhibition are in wood, dominated by masks, frequently from Benin and Gabon. Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse shows the obvious influence of African art in the pure lines and abstraction, and the stylised shapes. The exhibition would have benefitted from the inclusion of works by Modigliani, Giacometti and Picasso, artists who were heavily influenced by African art in my view.


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