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Tishman Treasures

A "First Look" at New African Exhibit Reveals Some Treasures

Disney-Tishman treasures collection offers tantalizing preview

Tishman treasures. Idoma mask, Nigeria
Dual face mask from Nigeria, Idoma peoples, the Disney-Tishman Collection. (National Museum of African Art photo - Franko Khoury)

By Bruce Greenberg Washington File 17 May 2006

official site :First Look Tishman-Disney collection

Washington -- Called "First Look," an exhibition of African art in two parts unfolds May 17 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art and serves as "a tease," says a curator, for the second and much larger collection to go on display beginning in February 2007.

Christine Mullen Kreamer, a curator involved with the project, mentioned the varied scope of the collection, and how it has both complemented and rounded out the museum's present permanent collection.

Tishman treasures. Yoruba Owo armlet, Nigeria
Armlet from Yoruba peoples, Owo, Nigeria. The Disney-Tishman Collection. (National Museum of African Art photo - Franko Khoury)

"We're seeing this collection with new eyes," she remarked. "In actually handling some of the objects, we've discovered details such as applications of paint, and certain materials not previously remarked on before in publications. So we are enormously excited about it."

The collection, she continued, "is meant to represent the range of African art to our visiting public, and should provide a good overview to anyone interested in learning about African art since it [represents] a diversity of form, a diversity of materials, a diversity of function and context."

Of special note, this sampler exhibit contains several rare stone sculptures -- uncommon because West African artisans mostly preferred to work with other more malleable materials.

The earliest work dates from 1497, an ivory hunting horn from modern-day Sierra Leone, crafted for the Portuguese and carved with intricate African and European hunt motifs, plus European coats of arms.

Other items, Kreamer said, date from the early to middle 20th century, and "give one the sense of the creativity that existed in Africa and continues to exist today in Africa, and makes Africa relevant to our visitors as a place where art continues to play a very important role."

Susan Talbott, director of arts, programs and policy; and acting director of the museum, stressed the artistic and academic value of the collection, indicating its significance for African art historians and scholars. She added, "If you open any text book on African art, you will see examples from this collection."

Entitled "The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection," it represents one of the finest contemporary assemblages of rare and historically valuable sculpture, statuary and masks from western and central Africa, dating from the late 15th century to the mid-20th century. Comprising 525 objects, the current preview places on display some 24 exemplary pieces.

New York real estate developer Paul Tishman, together with his wife, Ruth, began collecting African sculpture in the late 1950s and, through the next 20 years, amassed a varied trove of masks and figurines, together with large-scale works comprised of ivory, wood, bronze, ceramic and fiber.

The Walt Disney Company purchased the collection from the Tishmans in 1984, and soon made the works available to the public through loans, special exhibits and publications. In the fall of 2005, Disney donated the collection to the National Museum of African Art to become part of its permanent collection. 

Talbott said she hopes this preview will prompt the public to return for "the big show" in February 2007.

More information on the National Museum of African Art is available on the museum’s Web site.

read also

Newest Walt Disney Epcot Gallery to Open with "Echoes of Africa," Showcasing African Art Influences on Contemporary Works.


Created: 16 May 2006 Updated: 17 May 2006

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