African throne

The latest exhibit at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art is one that’s never been seen before in the United States.

Featuring more than 200 pieces of African art, “Collecting in America: The Sabates African Art Collection,” features a sprawling art collection of varying media, locations and eras in Africa.

“One of the things I’m hoping is that people get an idea that African art isn’t just one thing, that there’s a ton of different viewpoints and styles and cultures that do very different things,” Exhibitions Manager Megan Benitz said.

The exhibition will open with a free opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, 2818 Frederick Ave.

The roots of the showcase started in 1978, when art collector Dr. Roland Sobates discovered his passion for African art while on a six-week mission trip. For the last four decades, he has amassed a collection so large that the museum had to use both its main and bottom floors to showcase it.

“Normally, we take a week to set up an exhibit. For this, we had to take two,” said Christy George, marketing manager for the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art.

When visitors walk into the museum, they’re greeted by a colorful Bamileke throne. Throughout the museum’s main floor are masks and statues from different periods of Africa’s history.

“Quite a few of them have distinct smells. They smell like wood smoke or feathers. There’s definitely a lot of scents in there,” Benitz said.

The sprawling showcase is what the museum is calling its most ambitious project yet. In addition to being an exhibit, it also will be used as an educational tool for children during the museum’s summer classes.

“Our summer art camps and things for children at this time are based on this collection,” George said.

It also will be the first in a series of exhibits that will highlight art collections in America.

“We’re kind of showing the mind of a collector, what they’re interested in. This is the kind of art that most people around here, we don’t see on a regular basis,” Benitz said.

The opening reception for the exhibit is free and open to the public. It also will be open during the museum’s regular business hours. It will be on display until Sept. 8.

Due to the historic nature of the sculpture and pieces, the museum asks that visitors do not touch any pieces included in the showcase.

Andrew Gaug can be reached

at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

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