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African Art Covers New Ground at the High
Headshot of Eva Berlin
Eva Berlin
Digital Content Specialist

Something BIG is happening for African art here at the High!

This has been a record-breaking year for our African art department. This year the High has had more space dedicated to African art than at any previous time in its history. In October, our permanent collection galleries, combined with two special exhibition spaces, amounted to a total of 20,000 square feet filled with African art.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design is still on view, and it is the largest African art exhibition ever presented at the High Museum.

Just how big is Making Africa?

photo of a man looking through the opening in a round sculpture in the Making Africa exhibition
square feet
photo of a woman looking at art in the Making Africa exhibition
Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru poses with an artwork resembling sunglasses
photo of a model wearing an ornate, embroidered silk cape and patterned silk pants
African countries
Image of a tall building facade with lots of windows, and some figures can be seen silhouetted in the windows
Mikhael Subotzky (South African, born 1981), Ponte City, Windows, 2009, Duratran print. © Mikhael Subotzky & Patrick Waterhouse, Courtesy Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

This is an exciting occasion for the High, and Making Africa echoes that excitement. Carol Thompson, our Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art, offers her thoughts on Making Africa‘s joyful, forward-thinking outlook:

“One of the themes running through the show points to how young artists take inspiration from the optimism of independence-era Africa, especially West Africa of the late 1950s and early ’60s. The energetic optimism of urban youth is mirrored across generations and around the world. For example, one work, Happy From . . .,  presents music videos made from Abidjan to Antananarivo to Brazzaville and beyond—all inspired by Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy.” This colorful video collage is presented alongside black-and-white images by photographers including Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé, and Jean Depara, whose works celebrate joyous moments of decades past.”

In this anachronistic self portrait photograph, Omar Victor Diop poses in 17th century Spanish style clothing while holding a pair of modern soccer cleats.
Omar Victor Diop (Senegalese, born 1980), Juan de Parjea, from Project Diaspora, 2014
In this 1963 photo, two sharply dressed young people smile and look towards their bare feet as they dance.
Malick Sidibé (Malian, 1936–2016), Nuit de Noël (Happy Club), 1963, Gelatin silver print

Making Africa is multisensory and immersive. It is not only something to see but also something to hear, with music, myriad voices, and the sounds of African streets ambient throughout. 

Come experience Making Africa before it closes on January 7, 2018. You won’t want to miss it!

Be sure to visit the permanent African art galleries, which offer a diversity of art forms from ancient through contemporary times—and they’re always on view! In this record-breaking moment, we are happy to celebrate our African art department, and we look forward to what’s to come.