A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Contemporary art from Africa Shaping up
New sculptures along the art museum's trail signal global outlook
"Contemporary art from Africa is the same as contemporary art from Germany or China or the US or anywhere else," said Schoonmaker, an African art aficionado ...
RALEIGH - The trail follows a ridgeline across the N.C. Museum of Art park, passing the whirligig-on-a-pole and heading toward the row of three broken circles -- the oldest sculptures on the grounds.
Unexpectedly, it comes upon the newest: a monumental piece that resembles either a giant humanlike boulder or a rocklike person sinking into a grassy slope.
Photos by Ethan Hyman
News & Observer - Raleigh,NC,USA Aug 19, 2007, found at
Farther down the path into the woods sits its companion, a smaller figure curled up tightly and resting under the trees. Both works by rising South African sculptor Ledelle Moe preview what's ahead when the new galleries under construction open in the spring of 2009.
For more than a decade, the museum has concentrated on adding works by midcareer contemporary artists to the collection. This month's installation of Moe's sculptures and the appointment of Kinsey Katchka as associate curator for contemporary and modern art signal a heightened emphasis on art with a more global orientation, featuring works by artists from places other than Europe and the United States.
"Museums throughout the United States are starting to realize they need to collect contemporary art from cultures often times not associated with contemporary art," said Katchka, whose background is African and Muslim art. "By hiring me, they've recognized the deficiency there, and they're trying to get a head start."
Bill Hamlet, the art museum's park technician, tries to keep Ledelle Moe cool as she tightens bolts while installing her sculpture 'Untitled.' Moe's sculptures are made of a specially treated concrete that makes them look old, almost unearthed.
Photo by Ethan Hyman
Over the past decade, market globalization and the Internet have heightened the interest of scholars and collectors in art from Asia and Africa, said Trevor Schoonmaker, contemporary art curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
"Contemporary art from Africa is the same as contemporary art from Germany or China or the U.S. or anywhere else," said Schoonmaker, an African art aficionado.
African artists have had a harder time finding an international audience because the economies on that continent tend to not be as strong as they are in Asia, for instance, where Chinese art is enjoying a boom through the proliferation of galleries, museums and other means of support, he said. More South African artists are emerging because that country's marketplace is relatively robust.
The opportunity to start building such a collection is what drew Katchka to Raleigh last fall. She comes to North Carolina from the Detroit Institute of Arts, where she worked with the African and contemporary collections, and before that the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art. Until about five years ago, the Smithsonian was the only museum in the United States that systematically collected African art, she said.
Katchka said she has gotten to know many African artists over the decade or so she has spent studying the field and has built important relationships with them.
"It's not just about buying artwork," she said. "It's establishing a layer of trust first so they are confident how their work is represented."
The curator approached one of those artists about doing something in the museum park. He could not, but he told her about Ledelle Moe, a young Durban native who now lives in Baltimore. Moe, it turned out, has had a string of acclaimed exhibitions.
"She's pretty hot right now," Katchka said.
Moe agreed to lend the museum two pieces on a long-term basis: the untitled humanlike sculpture that she made this year and the monumental "Collapse I," which was first installed at the Socrates Sculpture Park and later at the Pratt Institute, both in New York City.
"We're really excited about it," Katchka said. "It's shocking -- not in a repulsive way, but in an engaging way."
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