AFRICAN ART IN THE BARNES FOUNDATION: The Triumph of L'Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance By Christa Clarke

AFRICAN ART IN THE BARNES FOUNDATION: The Triumph of L'Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance By Christa Clarke

Catalogue entries by Arthur Bourgeois, Nichole Bridges, Kevin Dumouchelle, Kate Ezra, Sarah Fee, Till Förster, Christraud Geary, Kathryn Gunsch, Genevieve Hill-Thomas, Alisa LaGamma, Louis Perrois, Constantine Petridis, Mary Nooter Roberts, Monica Blackmun Visonà, and Susan Mullin Vogel

Twitter symbolTweet this: African Art in the Barnes Foundation – the first comprehensive catalogue of the Barnes African Collection – is out this June! #BarnesFoundation @Rizzoli_Books

Philadelphia PA, April 30, 2015 - AFRICAN ART IN THE BARNES FOUNDATION is the first comprehensive catalogue on the African objects collected by Dr. Albert C. Barnes. This sumptuous title completes a vision set forth by Barnes himself almost nine decades ago, when Primitive Negro Sculpture, the first book on any area of his collection, was published (1926). Although the Barnes Foundation is widely known for its collection of post-impressionist and early modern art, its African collection has long been central to the Foundation’s progressive educational mission. One of the first people in the United States to collect and display African objects as works of art, not ethnographic specimens, Barnes considered African art the purest expression of three-dimensional form and ranked it among the world’s great art traditions. He also diverged from the thinking of the day in his view of African art as an advanced art form, not a primitive one.

Barnes assembled his African art collection between 1922 and 1924 in five large purchases from Paul Guillaume, a dealer in Paris. As Barnes told Guillaume in 1922, his aim was to have “the best private collection of Negro sculpture in the world." Barnes arranged the resulting assemblage of more than 120 African works in the Foundation's galleries, amid art of all periods and cultures, to highlight its formal aesthetic properties and to help students and visitors see connections between the African art and art from other places. The African collection includes numerous figural sculptures, ceremonial masks, and domestic objects such as heddle pulleys, cups, tobacco mortars, stools, and headrests. Because Guillaume was French, most of the works that he sold Barnes originated in francophone African colonies—Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, and the Congo.

A luminous essay by Christa Clarke presents the latest scholarship on this unexplored and under-published collection. AFRICAN ART IN THE BARNES FOUNDATION features detailed catalogue entries by preeminent scholars in African studies and art history, completing a monograph that will long serve as an important resource in the field.

A talk and book signing will be held at the Barnes Foundation during the First Friday: Root Down: African Journeys programming on Friday, June 5 from 6-9pm.


Christa Clarke, PhD, Senior Curator, Arts of Global Africa at the Newark Museum, NJ. A specialist in historic and contemporary African Art, Clarke received her PhD from the University of Maryland.


The Barnes Foundation ( was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul
Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim 
Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings; important examples of African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles; American paintings and decorative arts; and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. The Barnes Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics programs engage diverse audiences. These programs, held at the Philadelphia campus, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday – Monday, 10am – 5pm, and also 6pm – 9pm every First Friday and select Friday evenings. Tickets can easily be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215-278-7200.  

The Barnes Arboretum, at the Merion campus, contains more than 2,000 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Mrs. Laura L. Barnes, the collection includes 40 state champion trees, a Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include lilacs, peonies,Stewartias, ferns, medicinal plants, hostaand magnolias. The Horticulture school at the Barnes Foundation in Merion has offered a comprehensive three-year certificate course in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design since its establishment in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes. Horticulture workshops and lectures are also offered regularly. The Arboretum is open Friday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm, from May 1 – November 1. Tickets can easily be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215-278-7200.

Credit line for the book must read: © African Art in the Barnes Foundation by Christa Clarke, Skira Rizzoli, 2015. Select press images will be available and are to be credited on a case-by-case basis. Serial rights are available; please contact Jessica Napp @ 212 387 3436 or

AFRICAN ART IN THE BARNES FOUNDATION: The Triumph of L'Art nègre and the Harlem Renaissance

By Christa Clarke
In Association with the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
Skira Rizzoli / an imprint of Rizzoli New York
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4521-7
PRICE: $75.00 US & CAN / £55.00
Hardcover / 288 pages / 325 color illustrations / 9̎ x 12½̎


For more information

Jan Rothschild, Senior Vice President for Communications,
Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications, Barnes Foundation
215 278 7162 or

Jessica C. Napp, Associate Director of Publicity
212 387 3436 or


Join our mailing list

Stay on top of the latest news, happenings and exclusive e-mail offers. Subscribe today.