A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
World class African art collection donated to U-M Museum of Art
at the gateway to U-M's central campus. For more information, visit: www.umma.umich.edu
March 31, 2005
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Ann Arbor businessman, philanthropist, art collector and devoted University of Michigan Museum of Art supporter Helmut F. Stern has given his extraordinary collection of African art to the Museum of Art.
The collection of 90pieces—regarded by experts as among the most significant collections of Central African material—is noted for its outstanding objects from many cultures, with a primary focus on art of the Congo. Many of the Stern pieces will be highlighted once the expanded museum—with dramatically enhanced gallery space for African art—opens in 2008.
"Helmut's heartfelt passion and sustained commitment to UMMA is deeply moving," said James Steward, museum director. "The collection's particular strength in the art of one region is especially appropriate to a university museum, where it will serve a profoundly important research purpose as well as provide much visual pleasure for our visitors."
Originally from Hanover, Germany, Stern attended George Washington University (1939-1942) in Washington, DC and has made his home in Ann Arbor since 1942. Stern is president of Arcanum Corp. and from 1946 to 1983 he was general manager and president of Industrial Tectonics, Inc. He has long been actively involved with U-M as a strategic adviser and volunteer and supporter of the arts, humanities, public health, public policy and the sciences. Currently, he is a member of U-M President Mary Sue Coleman's President's Advisory Group, the Health System Advisory Group, and the Cardiology National Advisory Board, and he is campaign chair for the Kellogg Eye Center.
"Helmut Stern has shown his generosity to U-M over many years and in a myriad of ways," Coleman said. "He has been a wonderful volunteer, charitable with his time and his support, as well as an astute and trusted counselor who sees the big picture and takes the long view."
Stern began collecting modern European and American art in the 1950s, later becoming increasingly interested in Asian and African art. During the 1980s, under the guidance of then-UMMA director Evan Maurer, a noted expert on African art, the collection and its focus on the art of the Congo region took shape as new works were acquired from art dealers across the United States and Europe. Over the years, Stern gave numerous works of art to UMMA and provided the museum with funds for key art acquisitions. Previous Stern gifts to UMMA include a significant collection of Japanese paintings, masterworks by Swiss artist Paul Klee and English master J. M. W. Turner, and several individual African works.
The Stern collection of African art given to UMMA has been broadly studied and published, and was presented in a major exhibition and accompanying catalogue at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1999 entitled "Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo—Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection," which was curated by former UMMA director Maurer and Niangi Batulukisi.
In recent years, UMMA has stepped up its presentation and acquisition of African art, an especially dynamic and exciting field, and one with increased scholarly attention at the University due to the appointments of African art historians Ray Silverman and David Doris to the faculty. The museum recently presented "Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa," a stunning exhibition of artwork from the Democratic Republic of Congo organized by the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. In consultation with distinguished guest curator Michael Kan—former curator of African art at the Detroit Institute of Arts—the museum organized a series of three installations of African art from private collections in Michigan, the final of which remains on view through May 8.
In addition to expanded exhibit space for African art, the museum's new wing will provide a variety of object study classrooms and open storage galleries, as well as housing the Charles Sawyer Center for Museum Studies. Collectively, these will allow faculty and student researchers, in particular, and the public in general, fuller access to all the museum's outstanding works of art not on gallery display.
UMMA is located at 525 South State St. in Ann Arbor, at the gateway to U-M's central campus. For more information, visit: www.umma.umich.edu. Admission is free; a $5 donation is requested.
Contact: Stephanie Rieke
Phone: (734) 647-0524
Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo
Selections from the Helmut F. Stern Collection
by Evan Maurer and Niangi Batulukisi
Published in English by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1999
Format: 12 x 9 inches, 153 pp, 71 large color photographs of objects and smaller B&W.
Embodied: Art of the Congo
Author: Evan M. Maurer; Buy New: $34.95
This exhibition catalogue stands alone as a book, and a very useful one. It celebrates the presentation at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts of the collection of one individual, purchased largely from one dealer, built around the collection of one artist, reflecting the cultures on one part of Africa. Joseph Henrion, a Belgian artist, first brought these pieces together because each expressed, as he saw it, "at once the particular and the universal vision of all aspects of man." Helmut Stern appreciated the objects both individually and collectively. And Evan Maurer, director of the Minneapolis Institute, saw the importance of bringing this collection to public view and the need to give it context with a highly informative essay on collecting and representing art of the Congo in American museums in the twentieth century.
The overall focus is on the best-known artistic expressions of the Congo. The catalogue entries are written by Dr. Niangi Batulukisi, who is Yaka by birth and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Louvain, in Belgium, based on her field work among the Holo people. She has also contributed an essay on Central African art today. The objects, most of them figures, are grouped in regional and ethnic clusters, with a detailed introduction for each section as well as excellent photographs and notes for each piece. With the passage of time there is an increase in the distance between the object in its culture of origin and the number of hands it passes through. This catalogue fortunately also gives the provenance of each piece once it fell into European hands. In terms of aesthetic quality and depth of scholarship, this work is exemplary.
buy this book at amazon: Spirits Embodied: Art of the Congo $34.95
So I knew there was a relation to the artist Joseph Henrion. So I looked in the "Who's Who " from Guy Van Rijn and found the following:
Artist/coll. Brussels-Belgium. Sculptor. Objects in expo: Art d'Afrique dans les collections Belges, MRAC-Tervuren 29 June/30 October, 1963. The collection is acquired by Marc Felix and sold to the collector Helmut Stern.
An area of active growth, the Museum has a collection of more than 1,000 works of African art. Although there is representation of nearly all the diverse peoples and regions within the continent, the Museum’s holdings are particularly rich in the works created in Central Africa, particularly of the Kuba and related groups. The collection includes metalwork (brass weights as well as articles of personal adornment), sculpture and masks, architectural elements, textiles, and ceramics. Many of these works are featured in rotating exhibitions in the James L. and Vivian A. Curtis Gallery of African and African-American Art on the Museum’s second floor
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