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Met Exhibit Traces African Influence on Avant-Garde Western Artists

By DNAinfo Staff on November 28, 2012 8:26am

UPPER EAST SIDE — The avant-garde artists of the early 20th century were best known for their modernist style — but they were also deeply influenced by African artifacts.

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which opened Tuesday, examines just how much masters such as Pablo Picasso, Alfred Stieglitz and Diego Rivera were inspired by African artwork.

"African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde" brings together more than 60 African and Western works that are usually housed in private and institutional collections.

The exhibition features 36 wood sculptures from West and Central Africa, displayed with photos, sculptures and paintings by Picasso, Stieglitz, Rivera, Charles Sheeler, Francis Picabia, Henri Matisse and Constantin Brancusi, museum officials said.

The exhibit will also trace African art's history in America, starting in 1914 when Robert J. Coady's Washington Square Gallery and Stieglitz's 291 venue introduced the continent's sculptures to collectors.

Gradually, the city became a core marketplace for African art, and institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania Museum and Whitney Studio began to take notice, museum officials noted.

Appreciation of African art in the United States boomed during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, when philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke secured a large collection of works from the country formerly known as the Belgian Congo, Met officials said.

The exhibit runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue at East 82nd Street, through April 14, 2013. The show is in the Michael C. Rockefeller Special Exhibition Gallery. A public lecture is set for Feb. 8, 2013.