The museum’s curator of African art, Jan-Jodewijk Grootaers, has totally reworked MIA’s African art collection, buying new things, sending others to storage, adding technological whiz-bang, and reinstalling it all in renovated galleries.
The result is a stripped-down display of about 125 objects, roughly half the number previously on view and only a sliver of the 2,100-piece African collection. Arranged thematically, they are a mix of masterpieces and utilitarian objects from across the continent. To give visitors an intimate experience, the museum has largely dispensed with display cases, instead setting most things on wide, open-air platforms that people can stroll around.
Intended as a teachable introduction to African art and culture, the show incorporates touch-screen maps, iPad pictures and videos, and engaging, jargon-free labels with handy drawings to help visitors navigate the many cultures, histories and art forms.