Explore Art \\ Collection
PEM’s African art collection reflects the continent’s artistic traditions and cultural complexity.
There is no one definition of “African art” or a singular African aesthetic. PEM’s collection of art from Africa reflects this creative diversity, with objects representing the continent’s geographic breadth and its varied forms of artistic and cultural expression. Embracing the entire continent, it includes works made by artists to serve social, political, or spiritual needs within their communities as well as pieces that responded creatively to external patrons. Objects in the collection range in date from the fifteenth century to the present, with the majority created from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, a period coinciding with colonial conquest and rule in Africa.
With acquisitions dating to the early decades of the nineteenth century, PEM’s collection of African art is one of the first in the nation — or indeed anywhere outside of the African continent. Among its holdings are donations from seafaring merchants associated with the East India Marine Society, whose travels took them to the west coast of Africa and around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.
Explore some highlights from the collection