Tribal art from Africa and Oceania in a dialogue with Classical Modernism at the Leopold Museum


Featuring more than 60 works of Classical Modernism and over 250 objects from Western and Central Africa as well as from Oceania, the exhibition “Foreign Gods. Fascination Africa and Oceania” shown from 23rd September 2016 to 9th January 2017 impressively illustrates the impact that so-called “primitive” art had on European Modernism in the first half of the 20th century.

The presentation “Foreign Gods”, curated by the ethnologist and tribal art expert Erwin Melchart and the art historian Ivan Ristić, represents a novelty in Austrian exhibition history. For the first time, eminent objects from the collection of African and Oceanic tribal art compiled by Prof. Rudolf Leopold are juxtaposed with select works by notable artists of Classical Modernism. Featuring in the exhibition are paintings, sculptures and drawings by Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuşi, Fernand Léger, Amedeo Modigliani, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde and Max Ernst.

The Leopold Museum presents artifacts from 14 African countries (Benin – Burkina Faso – Ivory Coast – Gabon – Ghana – Cameroon – Congo – Democratic Republic of the Congo – Liberia – Mali – Niger – Nigeria – Sierra Leone – Tanzania) and 6 Oceanian countries (Fiji – Indonesia – Papua New Guinea – Solomon Islands – Vanuatu – New Zealand).

Also featuring in the exhibition are the so-called “Mirror Masks” – masks from Mali reworked with mirror fragments – and video works by the internationally renowned Algerian-French artist Kader Attia which highlight the manifold interactions between African masters of wood craft, Classical Modernism and contemporary art. As a prelude to the exhibition “Foreign Gods”, the Directors of the Leopold Museum Hans-Peter Wipplinger and Gabriele Langer held an exclusive fundraising dinner on the evening of 20th September co-hosted by the General Manager of the Austrian Post and Head of the Leopold Museum’s Circle of Patrons Georg Pölzl.

The Leopold Museum’s Director Hans-Peter Wipplinger welcomed around 200 guests in his opening speech and emphasized the numerous formal-esthetic analogies between the so-called “primitive” art of Africa and Oceania and the protagonists of the Parisian avant-garde surrounding Picasso, the German Expressionists and Surrealist positions.

The Board of Directors of the Leopold Museum Private Foundation was represented by the collector and museum founder Elisabeth Leopold and the chairmen of the Board of Directors Helmut Moser and Werner Muhm.

The dinner was attended by the former Minister for Arts and Culture and current chairman of Sozialbau AG Josef Ostermayer, the rector of the University of Applied Arts Vienna Gerald Bast, the museum directors Sabine Haag (Kunsthistorisches Museum), Danielle Spera (Jewish Museum Vienna), Agnes Husslein-Arco (Belvedere) and Karola Kraus (mumok), the Director of the Albertina Klaus Albrecht Schröder as well as Florian Steininger, Director of the Kunsthalle Krems. Other guests at the fundraising dinner included the collectors Diethard Leopold and Toyoko Hattori, the Managing Director of the mumok Cornelia Lamprechter, Managing Director of M.A.C. Hoffmann Alexandra Graski-Hoffmann, as well as the gallery owners and art dealers Ursula Krinzinger, Wolfgang and Susanne Bauer, Alexander Giese, Julius Hummel, Sabina Kohler, Ute Eggeling and Michael Beck, Alois Wienerroither and Eberhard Kohlbacher.

Further in attendance were the artists Eva Schlegel, Walter Vopava, Erwin Wurm, Martina Steckholzer, TOMAK, Constantin Luser, Markus Huemer and Gregor Schmoll.

The ORF’s Head of Culture Martin Traxl, the CEO of Impulstanz Karl Regensburger, the Managing Director of im kinsky Michael Kovacek, Alexander Herberstein (Dorotheum), Maximilian von Künsberg-Sarre (chairman Herba-Chemosan), Conwert MG Martina Postl, the architect Carl Pruscha and Zone CEO Benno Pichler had also accepted the Leopold Museum’s invitation.

Finally, guests at the “Foreign Gods” fundraising dinner also included August Ruhs, the film director Titus Leber, Peter Weinhäupl and Sandra Tretter (Klimt Foundation), Petra Eibel (Uniqa), the advertiser Christian Satek and Siwacht / Hellrein CEO Andreas Plamann.

Foreign Gods. Fascination Africa and Oceania – 23rd September 2016 to 9th January 2017


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