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Curatorial Dilemmas: Representing Africa at UMMA with Mary (Polly) Nooter-Roberts

October 19, 2017 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

A series of talks by leading curators and thinkers in African art will launch a reimagining process for the forthcoming reinstallation of the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African Art. Mary (Polly) Nooter-Roberts, Professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, will be the first speaker in this series to contribute reflections on her own groundbreaking work in the display of African art.

Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts is a Full Professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, and Consulting Curator for African Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). She holds a PhD in Art History from Columbia University, and has served as Senior Curator at The Museum for African Art in New York, and as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Roberts studies the philosophical underpinnings of particular African visual and performance-based arts; museum and curatorial studies; the body and female representation; arts of divination and healing; and cross-cultural approaches to memory, writing, and inscription. With Allen F. Roberts, she produced the award-winning works Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996) and A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003). She is also the author/curator of Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals (1993); and co-author of Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art (1994); Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art (2007); and Luba in the “Visions of Africa” series (2007). Her most recent exhibition at LACMA is entitled The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts.

Roberts has been a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow and held other grants and awards; served as President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association; and is an editor of African Artsjournal. In 2007, she was decorated by the Republic of France as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for her promotion of African art and artists of francophone countries.

Additional featured speakers include:

Thursday, November 2, 7 p.m.: Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art, Seattle Art Museum

Thursday, November 30, 7 p.m.: Christa Clarke, Senior Curator Arts of Global Africa, Newark Museum


Lead support for Power Contained: The Art of Authority in Central and West Africa is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost and the African Studies Center.

This lecture series is presented in partnership with the University of Michigan African Studies Center, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Department of History of Art, Institute for the Humanities, and Museum Studies Program.

The series is presented in conjunction with the UMMA exhibition Power Contained: The Art of Authority in Central and West Africa (on view from August 19-December 31, 2017).


October 19, 2017
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


U-M Museum of Art, Helmut Stern Auditorium
525 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 United States
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