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2012 News Releases

The detective at the museum: LCVA director speaks about African art research

April 5, 2012

Kathy Johnson Bowles, director of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts

The detective-like work of gathering information on new pieces in Longwood University's extensive collection of African art will be the topic of an April 25 lecture.

Kathy Johnson Bowles, director of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, will speak on "Real Life Antiques Road Show: Identifying, Authenticating, and Interpreting Works in Longwood's African Art Collection." The lecture, which is open to the public, is set for Wednesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in Hiner 207. This is part of the Faculty Colloquium Series, which gives Longwood faculty an opportunity to share their recent research with the campus and community.

"When a potential donor offers a gift of art, sometimes they may not know much about the piece," said Bowles. "And just like people bringing works to Antiques Road Show, when asked to tell something about the art, the donor often remarks 'I liked it, so I bought it,' or 'I think that this is an important piece and might be valuable. I just don't know.' This is especially true with gifts of African art, which, while coveted by museums such as the Smithsonian or the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, can be hard to identify and date."

"The job of the LCVA director is to be like the experts on the Antiques Road Show. While the Keno brothers make it look easy, the process of identifying, authenticating and interpreting the works for exhibition is much more complicated. How do you figure out the title of a work, what culture made it and what is it used for with only the object in front of you? My lecture will illustrate the real-life detective stories about researching and preparing these new gifts for an exhibition."

The exhibition "Power and Beauty: New in the African Collection" opened March 9 at the LCVA. "Works in the exhibition exemplify the great art-making traditions of 27 different cultures living in North, West, Central and East Africa," Bowles said. "The 60-plus works are a testament to the power and beauty of objects used in everyday life in African life as well as in ceremonies, rituals and festivals. The exhibition illustrates the values associated with craftsmanship and culture-specific aesthetics and spirituality found on the African continent."

Longwood's African Art Collection dates to 1997 when friends of the LCVA established the Ziegler and Brumfield collections of African Art. Robert Ziegler, a longtime resident of Africa, established the collection with 26 pieces. Thomas and Donna Brumfield provided 88 additional works of African art in 1999. The collection includes an impressive array of statues, masks, drums, baskets and garments.

In the past three years, more than 100 works of African art have been donated to Longwood, effectively doubling the size of the African Art Collection. These new gifts were given by jewelry designer Barbara Boggess Watson, Ginny and Mike Hughes (president of The Martin Agency), and Barbara and Allen David (former U.S. ambassador to Uganda and Guinea).