African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic

The research project “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic” examines artworks of African Modernisms housed in museum collections.

Three collections are in the center of attention: the Makerere Art Gallery/ Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration (IHCR) in Kampala, the Iwalewahaus at the University of Bayreuth, and the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt/Main.

All three institutions host particularly rich collections of African Modernisms, comprising of mainly paintings, sculptures and graphic art from the early 1930s to the late 1980s. The projects looks at past, present and future connections between them. The historical dimension is of particular interest in its relation to the present and future connections between the institutions.

In April 2018, two artworks by the Ugandan artists Peter Mulindwa and Muwonge Mathias Kyazze from the Makerere Art Collection will be part of the exhibition “Feedback: Art, Africa and the Eighties” curated by project member Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (Cleveland Museum of Arts).

Peter K. Mulindwa, Untitled, 1981, Oil on Board, 119,5 cm x 195 cm. Makerere Art Gallery collection.

The broader examination of these collections is carried out in collaboration with international artists, researchers and curators who are looking at single artworks as well as the composition of a given collection, the relationship of the collector to the local art-scene and other related actors.

Further, the history of exhibitions is a central research question, and the first set of papers deals with this topic: how have works of African Modernisms of the three collections been showcased from the 1960s until today? What are the narratives that can be reconstructed from these exhibition histories? An in-depth engagement with the artworks itself is a core element of the research approach.

This first set of contributions for Start – Journal of Arts and Culture is the result of a public symposium at the Uganda National Museum in 2016 held as fringe event of the Kampala Art Biennale. In the coming months, the series will be continued with papers on a variety of topics related to African Modernisms and its contemporary relevance.

Read the full series as they will be published here:

Further information on the research project: