The African Art collection spans about 2,500 years and showcases historically significant works in a variety of materials that display the talent and extraordinary craftsmanship of Africa’s artists, past and present.
Acquisitions and Gifts
The Nelson-Atkins began collecting African art in the 1930s, with many notable acquisitions including two 17th-century cast brass objects from the Benin Kingdom in Nigeria in 1958. While the collection grew slowly until 1983, subsequent years saw more aggressive acquisitions.
Today, the collection contains nearly 400 objects and boasts several historically important works, thanks to major donations from the Helzberg and Tranin families and significant support from the Hall family. Represented in the museum’s African art holdings are sculptures, ceramics, textiles, headdresses, and bodily ornaments from more than 30 of the continent’s artistic cultures.
Today the collection exceeds 400 objects and boasts several historically important works rendered in a variety of materials such as wood, brass, bead, terracotta, ivory and natural fibers. Represented are sculptures, ceramics, textiles, headdresses and bodily ornaments from more than 30 of the continent’s artistic cultures from western, central and southern Africa.
The African collection is displayed in the Bloch Building in Gallery L9. Videos and photographs introduce African culture and add context, showing visitors how objects are used in ceremonies or everyday life.