Sunday 3 November 2013

Another U.S museum receives donation of African artefacts

As the controversy over donation of Benin ancient artefacts to Museum of Fine Art (MFA), Boston still rages on, a collection of Congolese pieces have been received by Fowler Museum at UCLA in Los Angeles, U.S.
Lega, Congolese Mask
The collection estimated to worth $14 million dollars and donated to the Fowler Museum museum by a couple, Jay and Deborah Last marked  the museum’s 50th anniversary.

Comprising 92 works, including wooden and ivory figures, as well as masks, tools, and spoons, the artefacts are provenance as created by the Lega people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But the collection, is not likely to raise issue as the Benin donation to MFA did, so suggests lack of details in the provenance. In fact, Fowler Museum, quite curious, shields the source history of Lasts' acquisition of the artedacts.

The Lasts-donation, Fowler museum discloses, makes the last part of the 318 pieces promised to the museum by the collectors. “Jay and Deborah Last have generously donated more than 660 works of art to the Fowler Museum since 1973", the museum says.

The collection, according to Fowler Museum continues a 12 year-old exhibition titled Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in Central Africa soon at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, France. The exhibition had opened at the Fowler in 2001 and traveled to several venues.

From UCLA Newsroom: 
"I was fascinated by the concept of the Lega society, one without hereditary or elected rulers, unified by a semisecret group, the Bwami Society, whose members rose in prestige and increasing influence as they practiced a highly moral standard of social behavior." Last said. "The emphasis was on harmony in social relationships, circumspection, filial piety, group spirit, obedience, self-discipline and tenacity of purpose. This linking of art with moral culture, the use of art objects to serve as a teaching and inspirational device during Lega ceremonies, added a great deal of meaning to my collection."
                               Jay and Deborah Last

Jay T. Last, who trained as a physicist and earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is one of the eight original founders (known as the "fathers of Silicon Valley") of the Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. and led the group that made the first integrated circuit chip. He has written books on American graphic arts and is a founder of the Archaeological Conservancy. Deborah Last has a bachelor's degree in art history from UCLA and a master's in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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