After four years of extensive planning and construction, the new galleries of African art and Indian art of the Americas are now open in the Art Institute’s lower Morton Wing. Working with the California-based architectural firm wHY (Workshop Hakomori Yantrasast), our curators have created a dynamic space that showcases for the first time the museum’s full range of culturally diverse artworks and artifacts from Africa and the Americas. Colorful wall graphics provide maps and a comparative timeline and original videos by filmmaker Susan Vogel bring these artworks to life by presenting them in their cultural context.
The ritual cache figure featured above comes from the Salado culture, which flourished in the mountains of west-central New Mexico five hundred years ago. The object, discovered wrapped and hidden in a remote cave, formed part of an altar for people to commune with the spirits of the earth. The large wooden male figure personifies the sky, as can be seen in his bold zig-zag turquoise pattern and feather necklace.
When the Yoruba people of West Africa greet a king, they say, “May the crown rest long on your head and may shoes remain long on your feet.” For special occasions, a Yoruba king is dressed from his head to feet in elaborate beaded and cloth garments. These fantastic beaded slippers probably became part of the king’s regalia some time in the 18th or early 19th-century, as European fashion gained prestige in the region.
Simple photographs do not do many of these objects justice. The new space allows for large textiles and other impressive figures to be displayed for the first time. As part of the inaugural installation of the new galleries, a remarkable selection of special loans will be on display throughout the year. Be sure to check out these state-of-the-art installations on your next visit to the Art Institute.
6 hours 13 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—In 1963 Melvin Edwards began Lynch Fragments, a series of welded steel assemblages made in response to the tumultuous social climate of the Civil Rights movement. The title of the series evokes the horrifying images of racist mob violence, yet Edwards’s works distill the subject into a powerful sculptural language, fusing modernist abstraction with a sense of personal and collective history.
Afrophoenix No. 1—one of the earliest objects from the series—exemplifies how the artist physically transformed found objects and brought them together in poetically suggestive, tension-filled compositions. Here the formal arrangement of steel elements evokes an equestrian bridle and bit. Chains, hammers, nails, spikes, and screws magnify the sculpture’s associative power, recalling implements of labor and torture. At the same the title references the mythological phoenix—alluding to death, rebirth, and transformation.
See Afrophoenix No. 1 (1963) by Melvin Edwards in Gallery 289D.
10 hours 39 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Modern Velvet: A Sense of Luxury in the Age of Industry
With their plush, inviting, and varied textures, the velvets featured in this exhibition showcase the diversity of modern velvet as well as the effects of industry on its production. As industrial innovations at the turn of the 19th century allowed for faster production and encouraged the use of less costly materials, designers and manufacturers of velvet sought to maintain its association with wealth, luxury, and splendor.
Learn how this elegant fabric has inspired designers for centuries, with a wide range of examples from the 19th century to present day—closing March 19.
21 hours 38 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago Just like the museum's collection comes from artists around the world, so does the Museum Shop’s assortment of products. We source exclusive products from artisans that are inspired by the cultures, mediums, and techniques represented in our museum collection. View our assortment of unique items from India.