African art, Baltimore Museum of Art

The BMA was one of the first museums in the United States to obtain a collection of African art. A large part of the collection was donated by Janet and Alan Wurtzburger in 1954. It contains more than 2,000 objects whose sources range from ancient Egypt to contemporary Zimbabwe, and includes works from many other cultures, including Bamana, Yoruba, Kuba, Ndebele. The collection includes many different forms of art, including headdresses, masks, figures, royal staffs, textiles, jewelry, ceremonial weapons, and pottery. Several of the pieces are known for their use in royal courts, performances, and religious contexts, and many are internationally known.

The works of art are as diverse in form as they are in function and include headdresses, masks, figures, royal staffs, textiles, jewelry, ceremonial weapons, and pottery. Many pieces are distinguished by their use in royal courts, performances, and religious contexts, and several are internationally known as the best of their type.

A major gift from the collection of Janet and Alan Wurtzburger in 1954 marked the beginning of a permanent display of African art at the BMA and assured a significant place for African art within the Museum’s growing collection.

Highlights of the collection include works by carvers Zlan and Sonzanlwon, and figures by the legendary brasscaster Ldamie. Also on display are a Lozi throne (c. 1900) most likely carved in the court of King Lewanika of western Zambia, a 20th-century Hausa Koranic prayer board, and a 2006 video work by Theo Eshetu. At least several of the masks and figurative sculptures are recognized internationally as the best of their type.

Recent acquisitions include a spectacular mid-20th century thirty-five foot long Kuba Man’s ceremonial skirt, an elegant late-19th to early-20th century Yoruba bowl-bearing figure from Nigeria, and Theo Eshetu’s contemporary light-based video work Meditation – Light (2006).

Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), located in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, is an art museum that was founded in 1914. While founded with a single painting, today the BMA has over 95,000 works of art—including the largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse. Collection highlights include a selection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; works by contemporary artists; significant artworks from China; Antioch mosaics, and a collection of art from Africa. The BMA’s galleries showcase examples from one of the nation’s collections of prints, drawings, and photographs and textiles from around the world.The museum also has a landscaped 2.7-acre sculpture garden. The museum encompasses a 210,000 sq. ft. building that was originally built in 1929, in the “Roman Temple” architectural style, under the design of famous American architect John Russell Pope. The museum is located between Charles Village, to the east, Remington, to the south, Hampden, to the west; and south of the Roland Park neighborhoods, immediately adjacent to the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University, though the museum is an independent institution that is not affiliated with the university.

The highlight of the museum is the Cone Collection, brought together by Baltimore sisters Dr. Claribel (1864–1929) and Etta Cone (1870–1949). Accomplished collectors, the sisters amassed a wealth of works by artists including Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, Manet, Degas, Giambattista Pittoni, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Renoir, nearly all of which were donated to the museum. The museum is also the permanent home of the George A. Lucas collection of 18,000 works of French mid-nineteenth-century art, which has been acclaimed by the museum as a cultural “treasure” and “among the greatest single holdings of French art in the country.”

The BMA is currently led by Director Christopher Bedford, who was appointed in May 2016, after a year-long search. Prior to joining the BMA, Bedford led the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Massachusetts for four years. He helped the Rose Art Museum out of international controversy in 2009 when, during the economic recession, the museum proposed selling off their top-notch art collection to help with its struggling finances.

The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to an internationally renowned collection of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art. Founded in 1914 with a single painting, the BMA today has 95,000 works of art—including the largest holding of works by Henri Matisse in the world.

The Museum has a long tradition of collecting the art of the day, beginning with the Cone Sisters, whose acquisitions from living artists lead the Museum’s commitment to contemporary art.

Since October 2006, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum (formerly Walters Art Gallery), have offered free general admission year-round as a result of grants given by Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and several foundations.