Last April, the L.A. County Museum of Art purchased a Bamana gwan figure from James Willis for $ 1 million (coming down from the original asking price of $ 1.6 million). The maternity figure will be welcoming visitors at the entrance of the museum’s new African Art galleries.
According to Polly Nooter Roberts, the newly hired curator of African Art at LACMA and professor at UCLA:
It’s a very symbolic acquisition for the museum, as LACMA is conceiving and giving birth to a new area of collecting and display.
The new galleries open July 7 with an exhibition of Luba sculptures on loan from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium.
“Of course, a figure of this age would sustain some losses,” Roberts said as she presented the sculpture, referred to as Mother and Child Figure for the Gwan Association because it would have been presented at the Day of Gwan, an annual celebration to greet the agricultural season. It still has a rich, almost glossy sheen, even though the woman’s braids have fallen off and she sits on a stool that now has three instead of four legs. The child has lost its head, too, but these omissions leave “us with fragments of the sublime,” as Roberts put it.