African Art


of an Exhibition

by Maria Mortati

Published on June 11, 2008, Modified on June 16, 2008

  • Description:

    I’m about to date myself. It’s been 20 years since I was at the DAM.

    While the building has completely changed the landscape I once knew, their African Arts exhibition is also revitalized and wonderful.

    We had about two hours before catching a flight, and I headed for contemporary arts. As you may know, it is easy to get disoriented in the Studio Libeskind space. I turned a corner and landed in a beautiful world of history, interactives, workshop and art that make up the small, but powerful African area.

    The case work is quite varied and plays off the angles of the building. One thing I appreciated there was the minimalist display of artifacts. Oftentimes, museums will pack a case, and here, they were sparing, which of course allows you to digest the objects more clearly.

    The impact was furthered by pairings of colorful, contemporary art, with earth-toned artifacts. Another layer were the interactives- for all ages and sizes as well. There was the RFID musical instruments piece, the video wall, and the mini-video screen crawlspace for little ones.

    Behind one of the angular walls was a DIY African art workshop where visitors could make rubbings and post them. They handled the design of the visitor art well, and I especially liked the fact that they kept the workshop area somewhat protected from the rest of the space. It fostered the ability for visitors to take that sometimes awkward leap from passive to active without being watched.

    The only thing I felt was missing was a little more attention to text panels. There was a disconnect between the level of resolution between the dimensional and the exhibit text. That could also have had an equally inventive treatment across the exhibit. Most museum-goers can read, and so that’s an area that’s ripe for the picking in terms of inventive design.

    Another exhibit that was treated in a similar vein was the Oceanic Art gallery. Check them both out next time you are there.

    And, um, don’t wait 20 years.

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