Exhibition Walk-through: Carlee S. Forbes on Particular Histories: Provenance Research in African Arts
Provenance research (an investigation of an artwork’s past ownerships) traces the movement of a given object through different cultural, economic, and political contexts. Particular Histories presents five provenance case studies drawn from African material dating to the early 20th century that came to the Fowler Museum from the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853–1936). The exhibition highlights recent findings—made through a combination of conservation, material science, archival research, and curatorial methods—that shed light on shifting perceptions of the objects’ value over time and offer some surprising revelations: from fictions concocted to assert certain works’ “authenticity” to new understanding of how some artists developed innovative designs tailored to local and foreign buyers.
This exhibition emerges from a three-year project, funded by the Mellon Foundation, which aims to unravel the histories of African works at the Fowler and begin reckoning with the legacy of European colonization and its influence on the objects’ use and perception. Multidisciplinary provenance research also lays the groundwork for building connections with communities of origin.
We are thrilled to welcome our enthusiastic visitors once again to the Fowler’s innovative exhibitions! Spend some time in our galleries and enjoy that particular alchemy of art, people, and ideas mixing together in the physical space of the museum.