“Nigerian Arts Revisited” at the Musée Barbier-Mueller (Geneva)

Barbier-Mueller arts du Nigeria revisités

From 20 March to 30 August 2015, Geneva’s Musée Barbier-Mueller will present a new exhibition, Nigerian Arts Revisited, dedicated specifically to Nigerian art. Many of the objects will be exhibited for the first time (see a preview above). On the museum’s website we read:

The Barbier-Mueller Museum invited the anthropologist Nigel Barley, a former curator at the British Museum, to take a look at the museum’s Nigerian collection, which came into being over more than a hundred years, thanks to the personal and informed “eye” of the collectors Josef Mueller and Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller. Without aspiring to cover exhaustively the cultural production of Nigeria across the two millennia of its history, the Barbier-Mueller collection is very rich in several respects. Faithful to chronological continuity, it provides a sample of the production of the major cultural centers of Nigeria, shedding light on archaeological pieces from Nok, Katsina, and Sokoto, works from Ife and the kingdom of Benin, and Yoruba, Ijo, and Igbo objects, as well as items from the Cross River and the Benue Valley. By virtue of their rarity, certain pieces in the collection constitute “monuments” of African art. Others, by their emblematic force, are among its great “classics”. The exhibition sets out to present these objects, including several displayed here for the first time, highlighting their aesthetic quality even while explaining, by means of the catalogue, the ethnographic context of their production and use. Nigel Barley provides new angles of approach for considering, understanding, and perhaps even better appreciating the art of Nigeria.

The subject of the show is interesting since Jean Paul Barbier and Monique Barbier-Mueller sold a substantial part of their Nigerian collection to the Musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie (now part of the Musée de quai Branly) in 1996 and 1997 – you can browse 242 objects of the 262 objects here. This exhibition will thus show objects that were not included in those sales or acquired since then.