Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 1, 2020 – March 14, 2021

 “The connections between historical African art and contemporary practice are deep but not always apparent. Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art probes this connection through a smart selection of stellar highlights from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s African collection and loaned works by six contemporary African artists of different generations.

 Second Careers: Two Tributaries in African Art presents objects from nine cultures in Central and West Africa that are juxtaposed with large-scale contemporary installations, sculptures and photographs. The exhibition considers the status of canonical African art objects as they begin their ‘second careers’ upon entering museum collections. It simultaneously examines modes of artistic production in Africa that employ mediums that once served other purposes in everyday life.” — The Cleveland Museum of Art 

“The exhibition’s premise is twofold,” said Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi, the exhibition’s curator and former curator of African Art at the CMA, currently the Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “Second Careers explores the role of historical African art in the Western museum context: how the objects made their way into the museum and the expectations placed on them to educate, to act as vectors of cultural memory and history and, ultimately, to add value to the institution in their second careers. The exhibition’s secondary focus is the relationship between historical arts of Africa and contemporary practices.” 

Mask, early 1900s. Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yaka people.
Wood, cloth, fibers, pigment; h. 47 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art,
Gift of Katherine C. White.
Untitled (Jua Kali Series), 2014. Tahir Carl Karmali (Kenyan, b. 1987).
Archival pigment print; 45.7 x 30.5 cm. © Tahir Carl Karmali.
Untitled (Jua Kali Series), 2014. Tahir Carl Karmali (Kenyan, b. 1987).
Archival pigment print; 45.7 x 30.5 cm. © Tahir Carl Karmali.
Egúngún Masquerade Dance Costume (paka egúngún), c. 1920–48. Yorùbá. Cotton, wool, wood, silk, synthetic
textiles (including viscose rayon and acetate), indigo, and aluminum; approx.: 139.7 x 15.2 x 160 cm.
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Sam Hilu.
Tightrope: Non-Essential Speed, 2017. Elias Sime. Reclaimed electronic components and wire on panel; 183.8 x 402.6 cm. © Elias Sime. Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York.
When All Is Said and Done (detail), 2016. Nnenna Okore (Australia, b. 1975). Burlap, jute rope, wire, and dye; 304.8 x 731.5 cm. © Nnenna Okore. Image courtesy the artist.
Earth Growing Roots (detail), 2007. El Anatsui (Ghanaian, b. 1944). Aluminum and copper wire;
236.2 x 401.3 cm. Private Collection. © El Anatsui. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Images courtesy The Cleveland Museum of Art.