Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
With the help of new, advanced medical technology, the Art Institute of Chicago has been able to more accurately identify five terracotta sculptures from present-day Mali, which are “among the oldest surviving sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the institute. The Bakoni figures, believed to be from between the late 12th-century and 15th century, are named for the Malian village in which they were discovered.
To prepare the sculptures for a traveling exhibition, the Art Institute’s Conservation & Science department partnered with the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine to discover more details about the Bakoni figures’ histories. The sculptures were first believed to be pastiches, combining unrelated fragments to create a singular object, which is common for ancient ceramics.
“[W]e were able to use computed axial tomography or CT scanning — which is basically an X-ray but in 3D — to closely examine the ceramic,” says Rachel Sabino, Objects Conservator in the Department of Conservation & Science at the Art Institute of Chicago. “As each figure went through the scanner we were able to see immediately that they had all been created with the exact same clay and with the exact same fabrication methods. This confirmed for us that our five were conceived as a group from the start and that they aren’t figures from different places or different potters.” This is a particularly noteworthy discovery, as many similar groups of sculptures have been geographically dispersed over centuries.
The cutting-edge technology also revealed that the objects were between 500 and 800 years old, which is older than previous testing had indicated.
“These types of collaborations between museums and hospitals have expanded the conservator’s toolkit by giving them access to the most advanced technologies and to equipment that would be otherwise unavailable,” a press release announcing the discovery states. “Their medical partners’ specialized knowledge guarantees that conservators have the best instrumental protocol available to find answers to their questions and that the results will be interpreted accurately.”
The Bankoni figures will be on view in the traveling exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa. They will be on view at the Block Museum of Art in Evanston, IL (Jan 26–July 21, 2019); Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada (Sept 21, 2019–Feb 23, 2020); and Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC (Apr 8–Nov 29, 2020).
Archeologists can now prove the Vikings made landfall in the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus reached the Bahamas.
This week, the National Gallery of Art finally acquired a major work by Faith Ringgold, the director of The Velvet Underground talks film, North America’s Hindu Nationalist problem, canceling legacy admissions, and more.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
Sculptures of Oaxacan alebrijes, envisioned as guardians of the nation’s immigrant community, and catrinas, Day of the Dead skeletons, are now at Rockefeller Center.
“I am trying to keep the immediacy of my emotional experience while I’m painting.”
Art by Athena LaTocha, Wendy Red Star, Marianne Nicolson, Anita Fields, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith, and more is on view through January 2022.
The intention behind the seemingly bizarre combination was, according to Attie, “to give visual form to the shared American and Brazilian reality of nationalistic divisions that defines our political present.”
Nowhere in the museums’ advertising blitzkrieg for the performance were we told to bring our wildfire-season masks as well as our covid masks, and covid masks don’t prevent smoke inhalation.