One Speaks Softly, Like in a Sacred Place. Collecting, Studying and Exhibiting Congolese Artefacts as African Art in Belgium
History and Archaeology
History & politics
University of Birmingham
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This article will try to correct the modernist myth , dating the discovery of African art after 1900, by looking at Belgium and its colony at the end of the 19th century. Although Africans themselves were of course the first to appreciate their own art, not only European artists, but also colonials, scientists and museum curators became fascinated by African artists and their work, including not only sculpture, but also material culture, architecture, music and dance. This broadened approach will then be used to analyse the World Exhibitions in Antwerp (1885/1894) and Tervuren (1897) where Congolese utensils were exhibited as artefact and art , a discussion that showed striking parallels with the debate on Fine and Useful arts. As I will argue, both debates were indicative of the simultaneous feeling of pride and loss caused by late modernity, as pure Congolese art began to serve as a means to criticize European industrialization causing absolute artistic decadence .
CitationCouttenier, M. (2015). One Speaks Softly, Like in a Sacred Place. Collecting, Studying and Exhibiting Congolese Artefacts as African Art in Belgium. , Journal of Art Historiography, Vol. 12; The European scholarly reception of primitive art in the decades around 1900:, 1-40, University of Birmingham,