Visions from the Forests surveys the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone collected by William Siegmann (1943–2011), former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum who lived and worked in Liberia from 1965 to 1987. His collection provides an excellent overview of the region’s traditional art forms, including masks and other artworks used in men’s and women’s initiation associations, jewelry and prestige objects of cast brass, ivory, and horn, small stone figures dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, and woven and dyed textiles.
With an emphasis on connoisseurship and the identification of specific artists or workshops, the exhibition reveals the deeply personal and scholarly connections forged by Siegmann during his many years of research on the arts and cultures of this region.
Visions from the Forests is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Support in recognition of William Siegmann’s longstanding commitment to the arts of Africa provided by James Lowell Gibbs and Jewelle Taylor Gibbs, NIS Solutions, Simon Ottenberg, and RLJ Companies.
William Siegmann—A Connoisseur’s Eye
William Siegmann – Bill, as scholars and collectors internationally knew him – was a rare individual whose deep-seated knowledge about the arts of Africa and his exceptional eye for quality distinguished him as a true connoisseur. During many years of research and curatorial work, Siegmann developed a large personal collection of traditional African art, primarily from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire, which reflected his extensive fieldwork and study and the passion he had for the peoples and cultures of this region of West Africa.
Siegmann manifested a deep appreciation for the object stemming from decades of closely observing, handling, and researching works of art within their historical and cultural contexts. By surrounding himself with objects of varying quality, not just with the finest examples from a given region, he gained valuable comparative perspectives on the extent of artistic production from particular areas and art-producing groups.