At the end of this month, the Baltimore Museum of Art is re-installing more than eighty rarely shown African works from its permanent collection (some of which are recent acquisitions) for an exhibition entitled Hand Held: Personal Arts from Africa.
The exhibition includes a variety of seats, vessels, blankets, combs, hats, and other objects created for individuals and households in twenty-one African countries. But as you peruse the works, it’s unlikely you’ll feel as if you’re at a department store. Every utilitarian, household item is an exquisite, exciting piece of art.
Hand Held showcases art objects from Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Zambia. But the exhibition is arranged by theme, not geographic location, as many African art exhibits are. This allows the viewer to gain a sense of the commonalities among African art as a whole as well the unique aesthetic heritage of each of the represented countries.
Hand Held is on view from September 25 to February 5 at the BMA.