SOUVENIRS D’AFRIQUE: Arts of Africa from the Collection of Janine and Josef Gugler
June 4 – October 13, 2019
Opening Reception: September 5, 5 – 7pm
Guest curated by Christopher B. Steiner, Lucy C. McDannel ’22 Professor of Art History and Anthropology, Connecticut College
SOUVENIRS D’AFRIQUE features works recently donated to the Benton from a large collection of African art and material culture acquired beginning in the 1960s by UConn Professor Emeritus of Sociology Josef Gugler and his wife Janine Gugler. Many of the works were collected in situ during Professor Gugler’s field research in Nigeria, including a number of Igbo masks and sculptures purchased directly from the artists. Other works represent object types and styles typical of works available in the African art market during the mid to late 20th century. The exhibition explores issues of indigenous cultural meaning, aesthetic value, authenticity, and the history of American and European interest in the arts of Africa.
The Gugler collection encompasses a wide range of religious as well as utilitarian objects such as masks, carved figures, textiles, chairs, jewelry, dolls, household items, and musical instruments. Collected primarily in Western Africa, these works represent diverse ethnic groups, including Yoruba, Baule, Igbo, Dan, Hausa, and Senufo peoples. In addition to works collected by the Guglers, the exhibition features documentary video and photographs, as well as snapshots captured by the Guglers during their travels.
Professor Gugler joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut in 1969. In Storrs, Janine Gugler maintained an active art-making practice, working primarily as a printmaker. She also taught courses on African art and expressive culture. Josef Gugler is the author of numerous books on African culture and society, including Urbanization and Social Change in West Africa (1978), Cities, Poverty, and Development (1982), and African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent (2003). Professor Gugler retired from UConn in 2008.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Christopher B. Steiner is Professor of Art History and Anthropology and Director of the Museum Studies Program at Connecticut College. His field research in West Africa focused on the construction of value and meaning in art through transnational exchange, resulting in numerous articles and his award-winning book African Art in Transit (Cambridge University Press, 1994). He is also the co-editor of Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds (University of California Press, 1999), Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Africa in the Market: Twentieth-Century Art from the Amrad African Art Collection (Royal Ontario Museum, 2016), and A Companion to the Anthropology of Africa (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018). Currently, Dr. Steiner is working on a book for the Peabody Museum (Harvard University) about their collection of Liberian masks and material culture acquired in the mid-20th century by American medical missionary Dr. George W. Harley.