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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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African Art at the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Vienna

Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology)
A-1010 Wien - Neue Burg
Austria
Tel. + 43 1 534 30
Fax + 43 1 534 30 - 230

v*(at)ethno-museum.ac.at

first published in African Arts 

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Barbara Plankensteiner found at http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0438/is_2_38/ai_n15753082 

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African art enthusiasts generally associate the Vienna Museum fur Volkerkunde with its famous Benin collection and precious court dwarf figures (Fig. 1). (1) The collection gained international attention in the early 1990s after a traveling exhibition toured throughout Europe and the United States. (2) However, fairly little is known about other parts of its Africa collection and its particular history.

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At present the Africa collection of the Museum fur Volkerkunde comprises more than 35,000 inventory numbers and can be characterized as a classic ethnographic collection with a vast typological array of artifacts, many of them appreciated today as works of art. The largest part of these holdings was assembled during the last quarter of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century; under the Habsburg monarchy. Therefore, in addition to reflecting the development and orientation of the discipline of Volkerkunde (ethnology) in Austria, the composition of the collection sheds light on relations between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Africa during that period. The preferences and special fields of research of the curators in charge were other determining factors in shaping the collection.

It is impossible to present all the highlights of such a varied and complex collection; therefore, this article concentrates on a selection of artworks characteristic of the collection's composition. The regional strengths reflected in this choice furthermore relate to decisive moments in the building of the collection.

Although it did not open its doors to the general public until 1889, the Imperial Royal Museum of Natural History (K.K. Naturhistorisches Hofmuseum) was officially founded in 1876. The initial plans already considered the installment of an anthropological-ethnographic department, paying tribute to a newly emerging field of studies. This department was created and initially headed by the first general director of the new museum, Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1829-1884), who cultivated a personal interest in ethnographical topics. A geologist and mineralogist by training, he had been a member of the scientific team on the famous circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate Novara in 1857-1859. This major enterprise was aimed at multidisciplinary research in a Humboldtian vein and combined geopolitical with economic interests. (3) Hochstetter understood anthropology as the natural history of man, a science that also encompassed "ethnology" and studied all manifestations of the human mind determined by its geographical-climatic conditions, a predisposition that his successor soon would turn into a culture-historical direction.

From 1877 on, Hochstetter employed Franz Heger (1853-1931) as his assistant. After his superior's untimely death in 1884, Heger took over the direction of the anthropological-ethnographic department. During the first forty years of the department's existence, Heger played a pivotal role in the development and subsequent enlargement of the ethnographic collection. Under his direction, the collection as a whole grew from fewer than 5,000 objects at the outset in 1876 to more than 94,000 in 1918. By that time, the African collection numbered 21,120 pieces.

In the first years, Heger and Hochstetter successfully gathered pre-existing collections from various imperial holdings, creating the foundation of the nascent ethnographic collection. The most prominent pieces originated from the so-called Ambras Collection, the remnants of the art cabinet of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529-1595) originally housed at Ambras Castle near Innsbruck. This collection, integrated into the Natural History Museum's collection in 1880, is mainly known for its spectacular sixteenth century feather crown and other pre-Columbian feather works from Mexico, which even today are often wrongly attributed as originally belonging to Montezuma (Anders 2001). However, some of the most precious artworks currently in the Africa collection were already listed in the inventory of the art cabinet dating to 1596: six delicately carved Bini-Portuguese spoons, one of the world's three surviving Sapi-Portuguese forks (Fig. 2; Bassani and Fagg 1988), a Sapi-Portuguese saltcellar (Fig. 3), and four oliphants in ivory (Plankensteiner 2000). (4)

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The first objects from Africa to be catalogued by the anthropological-ethnographic department comprised more than 500 ethnographical specimens from what was then called Abyssinia and the Upper Nile region. These were brought to Austria by Josef Natterer (1822-1862), a former Austro-Hungarian consul in Khartoum, and donated to the imperial Natural History Cabinet in 1865. The second registered collection resulted from Giovanni Miani's first exploration of the Upper Nile in 1860. Together with collections of Konstantin Reitz, Martin Hansal (Fig. 4), Ernst Marno, Ignaz Knoblecher, Wilhelm Junker, Richard Buchta and especially those of Emin Pasha, alias Eduard Schnitzler (Fig. 5), they constituted the important Southern Sudan holdings, at the time regarded as precious scientific material for which the museum was internationally renowned in the late nineteenth century (Bahnson 1888). Consisting predominantly of artifacts intended for ceremonial or daily use, many of them are also distinguished by their high aesthetic value (Figs. 6-7).

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Specific historical circumstances--the favorable political relations between the Egyptian Sudan and the Austrian Empire, a European power not perceived as a colonialist threat--and official contacts starting in 1835 facilitated research missions of Austrian experts in mineralogy and geology and the establishment of an Austro-Hungarian consulate in Khartoum as early as 1850. This fact attracted several travelers to the region who, together with a succession of consular representatives, collected material of natural historical interest. These early ethnographic collections were still guided by principles of a natural science. Their scientific value arises today not just from the specific historical circumstances that brought them together and from their relation to famous personalities of the early "exploration" of the continent, but in particular from their importance as a material archive for the past of a region in constant turmoil.

Franz Heger's museological vision was inspired by Adolf Bastian, at the time indubitably the most influential ethnologist in German-speaking Europe and since 1876 director of the ethnological museum in Berlin. Bastian saw the "procuring of material as the preeminent task" (Bastian 1885:38) of the nascent discipline of anthropology. This procuring of material consisted in collecting ethnographic objects. Bastian understood these tangible manifestations as the only expression of the spirit of peoples without written traditions, as "the only texts, which in future would enable one to understand the spiritual life of tribes without writing" (Bastian 1885:40). For him, the ethnological museums had the responsibility to secure and preserve this "raw material" for future research.

In accordance with this understanding, Heger's major endeavor was the expansion of the collection. He envisioned a culture-historical museum documenting the cultural development of all humankind. This museum should also encompass civilized cultures viewed from an ethnographic perspective, meaning that not just artworks should be presented. The inclusion of simple artifacts would illuminate not just the ideal images of all world cultures, but their lived realities as well (Heger 1896). Driven by this aim, he sought contact with Austro-Hungarian nationals traveling, living, or working abroad and encouraged them to collect ethnographic material for the museum. He was well connected internationally and used his relationships with the aristocracy and wealthy bourgeoisie of the empire to raise funds enabling him to acquire collections, since the museum had a very limited acquisition budget at that time. The possibility of honoring philanthropists by bestowing upon them decorations from the monarchy for large donations had a decisive impact. A French collection with some of the museum's finest West and Central African objects was obtained due to this practice. Charles Aubry Lecomte, a high functionary of the department for colonial exhibitions of the French Ministry of Naval Affairs donated more than 150 African objects to the museum from the 1878 World Exhibition in Paris, in exchange for decorations awarded to his superior and himself. Notable pieces from this collection are a rare drum-bearing figure from the Loango coast (Fig. 9), a miniature power figure (Cover), and two royal umbrellas that belonged to the Dahomeyan king Guezo (1818-1858).

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By far the most prominent and precious part of the African holdings in Vienna is the Benin collection. Franz Heger became acquainted with these previously unknown treasures at a meeting of the German Anthropological Society in Lubeck in September 1897, shortly after Benin City was destroyed and the brass castings and ivories transferred to Britain. At the meeting, Justus Brinckmann, a German art historian from Hamburg, presented "the casting of a Negro female head" (Heger 1921:107), leaving the audience deeply impressed. According to Heger, this presentation initiated the German fascination with the then-enigmatic art. He also immediately opposed Brinckmann's suggestion of an Egyptian influence and shared Felix von Luschan's and Charles H. Read's views of an unquestioned African origin of these artworks. It was especially the Austrian von Luschan, curator at the ethnological museum in Berlin, who immediately understood the artistic value and importance of these artworks and who encouraged his German colleagues to buy as much as they were able to. In this, he was so successful that British colleagues complained bitterly that more Benin pieces had ended up in German collections than in English ones (Ling Roth 1903). Heger also engaged in this ardent competition and was able to raise considerable funds for his endeavor. Letters in the archival records of the museum show the pressure under which he operated. The unique dwarf figures and the relief plaque of a horseman (Fig. 10), for example, had to be acquired through a middleman (Captain Albert Maschmann) in Hamburg, directly from the Niger Coast Protectorate, where they were held in custody of a British agency in Lagos. Heger had to raise the money in advance without knowing the exact nature of the ninety-one objects offered, a very precarious situation.

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On the whole he was able to buy 181 Benin artworks, (5) comprising a remarkable variety of object types, apart from the well-known bronze castings: relief plaques, Oba and Iyoba heads, snake heads, a "messenger" figure, a fine cock figure, two queen mother altarpieces, as well as lesser-known artworks such as a carved door from the former king's palace (Fig. 11), a unique chain of amulets, and an imperial orb. (6) To these initial holdings, several pieces have been added all the way up to the present. Most recently, contemporary chiefs' wardrobes and commemorative cloths have been collected in Benin City in preparation for a planned exhibition in collaboration with the Federal Exhibition Hall (Bundeskunsthalle) in Bonn and the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. The author is preparing this large exhibition on Benin art and culture, which will open in 2007 in Vienna and then travel to Bonn, Berlin, and possibly a venue in the US. This project aims to reunite major artworks from important collections worldwide under a contemporary perspective, synthesizing latest research results. (7)

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Other regional strongholds of the collection are eastern, southern, and central Africa. These were regions where several Austro-Hungarian travelers, geographers, or merchants headed in the nineteenth century, either as members of exploration expeditions, officers of foreign colonial regimes, missionaries, or simply big-game hunters or traders. (8) For instance, the museum owns a spectacular Chokwe scepter (Fig. 12) collected in 1875 by Anton E. Lux, a military officer from Moravia, who, together with Paul Pogge, joined an expedition to Angola sponsored by the German Society for the Exploration of Equatorial Africa. This piece was acquired at an auction in 1948 and identified later through an illustration in Lux's travelogue (Lux 1880). Important additions to the collection came from Janko Mikich, a Croatian lieutenant who, from 1882 to 1885, worked for the Association Internationale pour L'Exploration et la Civilisation de l'Afrique Centrale in the Congo, and from Josef Chavanne, an Austrian geographer who in 1884 had joined an expedition organized by the Belgian Geography Institute and then, in 1885, started to lay out plantations in the Congo for a Belgian investor.

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Inspired by the increasing number of scientific exploratory ventures into the African interior, the Austrian Imperial and Royal Geographical Society decided to sponsor an expedition to Africa shortly after the Berlin Conference in 1884. Its goal was to explore the watershed between the Congo and Nile rivers and the adjacent regions, with the ambition to try to rescue the Europeans Wilhelm Junker, Emin Pasha, Frank Lupton, and Gaetano Casati, trapped by the Mahdi upheaval in the equatorial Sudan, an aspiration of several other missions at the time. Oskar Lenz was named head of the expedition and the young cartographer Oscar Baumann engaged as his assistant. Lenz had already participated in a German expedition to Gabon in 1874-77, and in 1879-81 traversed the Sahara from Morocco across Timbuktu to the Senegambian coast (Fig. 13). The highly ambitious Austrian project failed in the end and fell into oblivion. That the two members never published a book on their findings and adventures might have contributed to this fact. (9) The expedition started out from the Congo estuary in 1885 and traveled upriver by steamboat to Stanley Falls (today Kisangani). There Baumann fell so ill that he could not proceed. Lenz tried to continue on his own with the help of the powerful ivory and slave trader Tipu Tip's men but finally had to change his route in a southern direction, reaching the East African coast in 1887. An ethnographic collection of more than 660 pieces was assembled during the trip and handed over to the ethnographic department in the imperial natural history museum. Among the pieces is a singular Luba hunter figure (Fig. 14).

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After his first trip to the Congo, Oscar Baumann returned to East Africa for another three expeditions financed by different German organizations. One of these, the so-called Maasai Expedition, brought him international recognition as the first European to set foot in Ruanda-Burundi, after passing through the Maasai Mara and reaching Lake Victoria (Baumann 1894). Baumann became one of the museum's most important collectors, contributing more than 2000 objects to the collection (Fig. 15).

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Although Baumann surely adopted colonial attitudes in his military regiment as a leader of the expedition caravan, he was never a member of the German colonial administration. Other Austrians, such as Alfred Sigl, joined the Schutztruppe (Germany's colonial armed forces); as head-of-station in Tabora, Sigl was instrumental in the appeasement of the East African colony in the interior of Tanzania. Tabora, the former Unyanyembe, located in the heart of the Nyamwezi region, at that time was an important base for the Swahili Arabs on their trade route into the Eastern Congo. Sigl apparently profited from this special position and gathered large collections, numbering more than 1800 objects, from the whole region. He also acquired objects from areas east of Lake Tanganyika, among them an important set of carvings from the Maniema region including a Luba caryatid figure, a wonderful Luba staff, a power figure, and an exceptional bowstand (Fig. 16). Their remarkable aesthetic qualities were recognized by Wilhelm Hein, assistant at the ethnographic department, who published the group of what he considered artful "Waguha" (Holo-Holo) carvings in a publication in honor of Adolf Bastian (Hein 1896). A rare headpiece (Fig. 17) from the same region was handed over by Sigl, together with a cowrie-covered stool, presumably a gift from Tipu Tip himself. (10)

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Another Austrian, Ludwig von Fischer, joined an expedition of the German Antislavery Society to Lake Victoria in 1892, from which he sent a collection of seventy-three objects only a month before dying of malaria. The most precious piece of this collection is a chief's stool, which he claimed in the accompanying letter was a unique piece (Fig. 18).

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The enigmatic group of Ujiji figures (Fig. 19) was acquired from Hans Meyer, who was a descendant of the famous publisher family in Leipzig and the first European to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro. This group is very similar to pieces in other German museums; however, basically nothing is known about them apart from their region of origin and the fact that none of them shows any trace of use.

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A large part of the South African holdings was collected by the Czech doctor Emil Holub, who traveled to South Africa on his own initiative. Driven by a patriotic urge to realize an Austrian contribution to the exploration of Africa, he had the ambitious plan to cross the African continent from south to north, from the Cape to Egypt. He financed his first trip, from 1872 to 1879, by working as a doctor in the Kimberley diamond fields, from where he organized trips to the north into the Lozi reign as far as Zambia (Holub 1881). For his second expedition, from 1883 to 1887, he had financial support from home and took his wife Rosa with him, together with six other Europeans. This time he ventured into Ila territory on the Zambesi, but had to return because of a conflict arising between the Ila and the neighboring Lozi (Holub 1890).

On these two trips, Holub collected more than 30,900 items of natural history and ethnography, which he distributed to more than twenty different museums in Europe. Vienna received nearly 700 objects, including a collection of 165 samples of San rock engravings (Fig. 20). This collection is the largest outside of South Africa and now can be seen as a testimonial to the unethical collection practices in the past. We know that the engravings were deeply connected with landscape features and received their meaning from the specific location. As Holub did not record the exact original placement and surroundings, this natural context is lost. However, in the early twentieth century, this collection was internationally known and highly appreciated by scholars interested in early art forms (Zeliszko 1925).

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A collection of imperial gifts from Ethiopia is a long-underestimated and little-known highlight of the Vienna collection. Two sets of precious dresses, horse ornaments, and shields sent to Kaiser Franz Josef by Menelik II and also by his grandson and successor on the throne, Lidj Yassu, are a result of diplomatic exchange between the two countries. In 1905, the Austrian emperor sent a diplomatic mission to the court of Menelik II headed by Ludwig von Hohnel to sign a treaty of commerce (Fig. 22). This mission was organized by Friedrich Bieber, the son of a coffee merchant, who had previously visited Ethiopia in a vain attempt to explore the Kafa kingdom, coffee's legendary country of origin. By joining the mission, Bieber finally fulfilled his dream. With the support of Ethiopian officials, he was able to proceed to the Kafa region, which in 1897 had been colonized by the Amhara (Bieber 1920). A significant part of the comprehensive collection documented in his two-volume book has been acquired by the museum (Fig. 23).

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After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy following World War I, the fate of the ethnographic department took a decisive shift and a long-felt need turned into reality. In the more than forty years of its existence, the ethnographic department had developed a solid base in culture-historical ethnology and felt increasingly uncomfortable under the wing of the Natural History Museum. Furthermore, the enormous expansion of its holdings made enlargement of the exhibition space necessary. The collections were moved to a new section of the former imperial palace, and in May 1928 the newly established Museum fur V61kerkunde opened its doors. Unfortunately, only the East and Central Asian galleries were ready at that time; the other regional areas should have soon followed, along with a gallery for comparative ethnography, but these were not completed according to the initial plans.

Already during the preparatory works for this new institution, a controversy started regarding the treatment of artworks in the future galleries. An initial plan to install a special "art hall" devoted to Asian art, with a vision to later include Islamic, Indian, African, and Oceanic art, was turned down by the director of the projected museum, Friedrich Rock, and aroused vehement criticism from art historians and anthropologists alike. The discussion escalated after the museum's opening, which was heavily contested because artworks were not given adequate prominence in relation to simple artifacts. Friedrich Rock feared the separation of art from ethnography and vehemently argued for an integratory practice of embedding art into a cultural context. (11) In his struggle he received support from the Vienna culture-historical school, then the dominant school of thought in Austrian academic ethnology, centered around the figure of Father Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954). Schmidt was a strict opponent of cultural evolutionism inspired by Darwinism and hypothesized a primordial culture characterized by monotheism, monogamy, and private property. In his endeavor to prove his theory of primordial monotheism (Urmonotheismus), he engaged other members of his order of SVD (Societas Verbi Divini) for fieldwork to gather ethnological evidence for his hypotheses. Peoples believed to be contemporary representatives of this Urkultur--those of short stature living in marginal areas, such as the Central African pygmy populations--became the central focus of research (Marchand 2003). Father Paul Schebesta (1887-1967) was one of the missionaries who set out for intensive anthropological field research, first to study the Malaysian Semang and then, in 1920-30 and 1934-35, the pygmies of the Ituri region (Schebesta 1938-41). (12) The largest part of the ethnographic material he collected during his research (more than 1500 inventory numbers) was acquired by the museum (13) and today can be considered the most varied material documentation of these societies (Fig. 26).

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Another notable addition during the 1930s-40s was the Liberia collection of Etta Donner (later Becker-Donner), which unfortunately, for budgetary reasons, was divided between the Ethnological Museum in Berlin and Vienna (Fig. 27). The material acquired during Donner's field research in northeastern Liberia in 1934-35 went to Berlin, and the results from her second trip in 1936 remained in Vienna (Donner 1940).

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After World War II, the museum divided its collection into distinctive regional departments, each headed by one curator, a system of organization still in place today. Annemarie Schweeger-Hefel (1916-1991), an art historian and ethnologist by training, was appointed curator for the Africa department in 1945, a position she held until 1977. Schweeger-Hefel had a decisive impact on the direction and expansion of the African holdings in the 1950s-60s. Although forty years had passed since the aesthetic appreciation of extra-European objects by European modernist artists sparked the interest of art historians and private collectors, the foundation of art institutions devoted solely to so-called primitive arts, such as the Museum for Primitive Art in New York and the Musee des Arts Africaines et Oceaniques in Paris, took place only in the 1950s-60s (Vogel 1982). At this time, many art museums in the US featured exhibitions on African and Oceanic art, installed permanent galleries, and created specialized curatorial positions for "non-Western" art collections (Ross 2003).

Schweeger-Hefel's work during this period was influenced by such tendencies, with much of her work focused on African art and on expanding the collection in this direction. Until 1960 she worked mainly on the collections themselves and published on the art of brass casting in West Africa (the topic of her dissertation). This was also the subject of her first large exhibition at the museum (Schweeger-Hefel 1948). In response to the morphological method of Frans Olbrechts, who classified sculptures in stylistic areas and attempted to identify individual hands (Petridis 2001) or to Eckart von Sydow's psychological approach, she proposed an additional method of analysis for African sculpture. In a comparative study of wooden sculptures comprising 930 examples, (14) she attempted to derive general conclusions that would be applicable to all African art production (Schweeger 1960). She contended that a stylistic approach to African sculpture could only make sense when coupled with a method of deriving the meaning and function of an object from its posture and form. In the end her findings were of little use, but the need for specific field research became ever more apparent.

Perhaps due to this insight, or to her personal relationship to Wilhelm Staude, an ethnologist of the circle of Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlein, Schweeger-Hefel's research took a decisive turn after 1960. In that year she traveled for the first time to Africa, where she undertook continuous fieldwork for the next twenty years on the Kurumba, a society in northern Burkina Faso historically related to the Dogon (Schweeger-Hefel and Staude 1972). Her research focused on material culture and arts from a sociocultural perspective and culminated in a detailed study of masking traditions in relation to cosmology and mythology. In her voluminous oeuvre devoted to the masks, she undertook stylistic comparison and tried to trace the historical development of styles, now relying on a thorough base of researched material confined to a single, clearly delineated cultural area (Schweeger-Hefel 1980). She documented her research with a large collection of Kurumba art and material culture (660 objects), including a large typological selection of masks (Fig. 28).

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Even in her catalogue of the Vienna museum's African art collection, Schweeger-Hefel had distanced herself from her earlier, rather speculative approach. In Plastik aus Afrika (1969), she grouped the material according to its regional provenance and renounced generalizations. (15) This publication included many of her new acquisitions, particularly of West African art; to a large extent, they were purchased from known German art dealers and collectors. A couple of interesting artworks were purchased from Herta Haselberger, an Austrian art historian and contemporary of Schweeger-Hefel, known for her study of mud architecture in West Africa and her German-language publication on the anthropology of art, in which she also suggested a method for art-centered field research (Haselberger 1969). On her field trips to western Africa, Haselberger also collected objects for the museum (Fig. 30). The museum also acquired a drawing by Ibrahim Njoya (Fig. 31) thanks to Walter Hirschberg, an Africanist anthropologist at Vienna University and founder of the Austrian ethnohistorical school, who in 1959 studied tourist art production in Foumban, the capital of the Bamum kingdom.

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The emphasis on art in the museum's collection and exhibition strategy was continued by Schweeger-Hefel's successor, Armand Duchateau, who directed the Africa department from 1977 to 1996. An Africanist historian and ethnologist, he concentrated his interest on the Benin collection and was able to bring a series of traveling exhibitions on African art to Vienna.

The show "Views: Congolese Painting 1990-2000," curated by Bogumil Jewsiewicki and the author, marked the beginning of a collection of contemporary popular painting from the Congo (Figs. 32-33), which recently was complemented by the pioneer collection of genre paintings from Katanga assembled by Ilona Szombati and Johannes Fabian in the early 1970s (Szombati-Fabian and Fabian 1976). The exhibition's central focus was on the local meaning, interpretation, and development of this art form and highlighted the narrative quality of the paintings. The exhibit both analyzed the paintings' value as expression of a collective memory and addressed their local consumption through the example of the urban living room, the cultural space in which the interpretation of the artworks gives way to individual memories and reflections.

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Steady Austrian interest in contemporary African art was bolstered by a series of projects throughout the 1990s. In 1996, "The Other Journey" (Die andere Reise) presented young artists from Africa and the Caribbean, an exhibit intended as a reaction to narrow categorizations, still current at that time, regarding emerging discourse and presentation practices (Njami, Sulikowski, and Mittringer 1996). (16) The first project in Austria to deal with practices of representation and politics of meaning in the construction of art was the "Lotte or the Transformation of the Object" in Graz (Deliss 1990). Intended as an "exercise in reflexivity," elements of a contemporary urban African aesthetic were confronted with artworks by Rosemary Trockel, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, and others, using artifacts, handmade or of serial production, in a process of recontextualization. This opposition questioned conceptions and institutional framing procedures of contemporary African art and material culture alike. The collection of urban artifacts--masquerades, wax print textiles, recycling objects, signboards--acquired by curator Clementine Deliss in western Africa in the course of the project were afterwards taken over by the museum and formed a basis for the documentation of contemporary African urban culture and creativity (Fig. 34).

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Recently a small exhibition project, "exCHANGE" (Plankensteiner 1998), exposed the hidden history of selected artworks in the collection, focusing on their transfer from Africa to the museum and the particular circumstances in which they were collected. This project cast light on early phases in the biographies of the artworks in their appropriation by the West, a point of view that will be reinforced in the future showrooms for the Sub-Saharan African collection. This approach should induce in the visitor a critical understanding of the construction and interpretation of African art and material culture.

In 2001 the Museum fur Vo1kerkunde was administratively integrated into the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) in Vienna and is at the moment closed for renovation. In this process the African showrooms are being reconceptualized and will be reopened to the public in 2007.

All photographs courtesy of Museum for Volkerkunde, Vienna

[This article was accepted for publication in April 2005.]

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(1.) I thank Alexander Rosoli and Michael Aumuller from the photo studio of the Kunsthistorisches Museum for their enthusiasm in photographing the selection of artworks for this article as well as our team of conservators for their assistance in the whole process.

(2.) This important exhibition was organized by the former curator of the Africa department, Armand Duchateau, and led to the publication of the collection, which since has been published in several languages and is still widely distributed today (Duchateau 1994).

(3.) Although large collections from Asia and America were brought back, only a single African object from the Novara naval expedition survived, a simple snuff spoon from the South African Cape.

(4.) This collection of Afro-Portuguese ivories was later enlarged during the early twentieth century by two additional saltcellars from the art cabinet of Feistritz Castle, one spoon, and another oliphant found in private collections.

(5.) For the collection history see Kofler (1994).

(6.) Although Duchateau (1994) gives a comprehensive overview of the collection, he unfortunately did not include the wood carvings of the collection.

(7.) The concept has been elaborated by Gisela Volger and Barbara Plankensteiner with the collaboration of Peter Junge and the consultancy of Barbara Blackmun and Joseph Nevadomsky, A number of other eminent scholars in the field such as Ehkaguosa Aisien, Uyilawa Usuanlele, Charles Gore, Paula Girshick, and Flora Kaplan have commented on various aspects of the concept and will contribute to the catalogue.

(8.) The Austro-Hungarian empire did not engage in the colonial scramble, though there had been colonial ambitious from certain circles and individuals, which all were unsuccessful in the end (see Sauer 2001). Nevertheless several Austro-Hungarian nationals joined colonial forces, either the Association Internationale of King Leopold's Congo or, for instance, the German Schutzgruppe.

(9.) Only the letters sent to the Geographical Society in Vienna during the trip were published in their journal. Baumann published several articles after his return (see, for instance, Baumann 1887a, b).

(10.) See Plankensteiner 1998, cat.no.67.

(11.) For a detailed analysis of the whole discussion see Plankensteiner 2003.

(12.) After this he studied the "Negritoes" on the Philippines and went back to the Ituri region twice, in 1949-50 and 1954-55, primarily for linguistic research (Vorbichler 1967).

(13.) Other parts of the collection are in, for instance, the Vatican Museum in Rome and in the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana.

(14.) The material she used for her comparative analysis came from the Vienna collection, the African holdings of the Vatican, the Pigorini museum in Rome, and available published sources.

(15.) This catalogue is still the only comprehensive publication on the Africa collection of the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Vienna, and was the accompanying publication for the African permanent collection installed, with minor changes, until 1993. A new comprehensive catalogue is now being prepared by the author, together with the new conceptualization of the permanent galleries.

(16.) At Vienna University, the research project of Thomas Fillitz (2002) analyzed selected West African artists, exploring their individual intentions and reflections in relation to the global framework in which they operate as a measure to define sociocultural anthropological methodology in the study of African art.

COPYRIGHT 2005 The Regents of the University of California
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

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