To get to the Matisse show, you will probably pass through the galleries displaying the Met’s handsome permanent collection of sub-Saharan African art. In the middle of it is a small space used for special exhibitions. Here appears a much more modest & less ambitious show than the Matisse, but in some ways, a more perfect one. It is “African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde,” and was organized by Yaëlle Biro, an assistant curator in the Met’s department of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (through April 14). Intended to show how avant-garde American artists, dealers and collectors in the early 20th century valued & responded to what was known in those days as “primitive” art, this show combines 40 masks, statues and other works from West and Central Africa that were being reproduced and/or exhibited in New York at that time with photographs, magazines, European and American paintings & sculpture, plus other documentation of this relationship. The installation, especially of the earlier part of the show, is well-handled, and the quality of the work included is almost uniformly high. To be sure, since Alfred Stieglitz played a leading role in all of this, and the Met is the proud owner of a massive Stieglitz collection, this must have been one of the museum’s less expensive shows to mount, but hey, whoever complains about good value?
Report from the Front
Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."
SMALLER BUT MORE PERFECT
January 12, 2013
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