Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria

All around Richmond, folks are abuzz over Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, which opens this upcoming Saturday. But this past weekend, the VMFA welcomed an entirely different type of exhibition – Dynasty and Divinty: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria.

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All around Richmond, folks are abuzz over Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, which opens this upcoming Saturday. But this past weekend, the VMFA welcomed an entirely different type of exhibition – Dynasty and Divinty: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria. The exhibition finds a natural home at the VMFA, where it sits nestled in with a very impressive collection of pan-African art — painstakingly curated by Richard Woodward — who said of Dynasty and Divinity that its place at the VMFA is “truly divine.”

Amid Picassomania, Dynasty & Divinity emerges quietly and serenely, like the art itself. But what the exhibition lacks in public fervor it more than makes up for in impact. 109 works of brass, copper, and terra cotta ranging from the 12th to the 15th century made by the Yoruba people of ancient Nigeria, many of which have never been seen outside of Nigeria, shed new light on African art during the period to give viewers a deeper appreciation of its rich craftsmanship and artistry.

Organized by the Museum for African Art in New York, in collaboration with the Fundación Marcelino Botín of Santander, Spain, and the Nigerian National Commission on Museums and Monuments, the exhibition will make 6 stops, including Richmond, during its world tour. Upon premiering in England, the Ife exhibit was described as containing “artworks that rank with the Terracotta Army, the Parthenon, or the mask of Tutankhamun as treasures of the human spirit.”

One of the most captivating features of the exhibition is a collection of ‘royal heads,’ many of which were uncovered accidentally in 1938. The facial expressions they bare are tranquil yet powerful. They seem to speak with a voiceless, haunting quality that must be experienced to be understood. Other highlights include a beautifully-preserved Ooni Figure as well as a peculiar collection of art depicting deformities. Overall, the exhibition presents a picture of Yoruba life that is both majestic and beautiful but also intimately familiar with disease and suffering.

Details

  • Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria will be at the VMFA until May 22.
  • Free for VMFA members and children 6 and under
  • $8 for adults
  • $6 for seniors 65+, students with ID, adult groups of 10+, and youth ages 7–17
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Stephanie Ganz

Stephanie Ganz is pretty into food. She’s always helping people develop food-focused businesses, making food, and eating. Her family likes food too.

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