The Overlooked National Museum of African Art

I think most visitors and locals in DC overlook the National Museum of African Art. I used to be one of them. With my husband, we accidentally one day passed from the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art to the African Museum. These two museums are connected through the ground floor.

We weren’t expecting much, but decided to continue to walk. We suddenly arrive to a gallery that had black and white photographs. I had to make a stop to investigate the exhibition. The photography and video work was of Roger Ballen. Neither one of us knew about him. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about his work before. Ballen mixes drawings and photography to create surreal work. The drawings are made of line and textures. These are sometimes shown as a single flat photograph. I think the drawings work best when they are used as backgrounds, almost as theatrical stages, for the objects and people on the foreground. The work feels very, very dark and mysterious. I almost read them as nightmares or the darkness in humans. At the same time, some of the photographs felt dark and strangely a bit calm.

Currently they have an exhibition with the Cosby’s private art collection. I know Cosby from the TV show and also the unfortunate allegations about him (be true or not). In any case, him and his wife have an excellent art collection, and I am very pleased we had an opportunity to take a peek at it. I again, left with new favorite artists to add to my list, such as Varnette Honeywood and Nontsikelelo Veleko.

I need to pay another visit to this museum because “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists” exhibition up until the end of the summer looks like one that shouldn’t be missed. Check it out here.


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