Sunday, October 22, 2006

World-Class African Art Collection Donated to University of Michigan Museum of Art

Ann Arbor businessman, philanthropist, art collector, and devoted UMMA supporter Helmut F. Stern has given his extraordinary collection of African art to the Museum of Art. The collection of ninety pieces—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.

Originally from Hanover, Germany, Mr. Stern began collecting modern European and American art in 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 generously 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 T. Doris to the faculty.

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.

University of Michigan Museum of Art is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the gateway to the University’s historic central campus.


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