AFRICAN ART HISTORY AND THE FORMATION OF A MODERN AESTHETIC
“African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic” is a Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt research project in cooperation with Bayreuth University (Iwalewa House), supported by the Volkswagen Foundation’s “Research in Museums” funding initiative.
In 1974, the Weltkulturen Museum began collecting modern and contemporary art from Africa. Today, the museum holdings include an extensive collection of approximately 3,000 works of contemporary art, primarily focused on Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and, in particular, Uganda. This area of the museum’s holdings was acquired by German collectors, with the Jochen Schneider collection as the largest single addition. From 1960 to the 1980s, during the years he lived in Uganda, Jochen Schneider, a German engineer, built up a collection of contemporary art by local artists. Above all, he bought works by students at the Makerere School of Fine Arts in Kampala. At present, these account for around 1,000 works in the Weltkulturen Museum’s collection.
As part of this project, Professor George Kyeyune (Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda) and Siegrun Salmanian (M.A. Iwalewa House, Bayreuth University) were guests at the Weltkulturen Museum in February 2016.
This research project critically explores the collections of paintings, sculpture and graphic works by modern African artists, primarily from Nigeria and Uganda. In their research, George Kyeyune and Siegrun Salmanian consider how far the collections are informed by a variety of narratives of African art history – on the one hand, those of the artists and, on the other, those of the collectors. The exhibition focuses on the links between the Jochen Schneider collection in the Weltkulturen Museum and the Makerere Art Gallery collection in Kampala. The objective is to obtain an insight into the reception of African art history in Germany through analysing individual works from the 1940s to the 1980s, the composition of the collections and the collectors’ relationship to the local art scene. Aside from conducting basic research into the individual objects, the project also aims to compile biographies of the artists and collectors. During their month in Frankfurt, the visiting research scholars were supported by Dr. Yvette Mutumba, the museum’s former Africa Curator.
George Kyeyune is Professor of Fine Art at the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Art, where he also served as Dean from 2006. In addition, he is the Director of the Institute of Heritage Conservation and Restoration, Makerere University, Kampala. In 2003, he obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, where he specialised in African art and specifically in the development of Uganda’s contemporary art scene.
As an artist, George Kyeyune is well known for his art works in public space in Uganda. He was a Fulbright Scholar from 2012–13, and a Commonwealth Scholar from 2013–14. George Kyeyune is a research member of the “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic”project sponsored by the VW Foundation.
Siegrun Salmanian has completed an M.A. in Africa Studies at Bayreuth University, majoring in art history and curating. During her studies, she began working in the Iwalewa House collection, and is also involved in exhibitions there as a curator. In the “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic”project, she is working as a junior researcher in the collections for modern and contemporary art in the participating institutions.
As part of the research project, the Iwalewahaus is showing the exhibition "Feedback: Art, Africa and the 1980s" (28 April 2018 to 30 September 2018).
The Volkswagen Foundation’s “Research in Museums” funding initiative particularly supports small and medium-sized museums in creating the well-researched exhibitions needed to fulfil their educational mandate.