In “Fragments of the CanonAfrican Art from the Saunders and Stanley Collections,” we are reintroducing you to our exceptional collection of African art in a brand-new way. The Stanley has never developed an exhibition about a collection of African art created by a Black collector. Few museums have, yet collectors shape art history through the art collections they assemble. If the only collectors we highlight are white, we are missing important, alternative perspectives. The generosity of Max and Betty Stanley provided the foundation for one of the most impressive collections of African art in the United States. Since the 1980s, we have expanded the collection in exciting ways, acquiring works from the Black Iowan collector Meredith Saunders. While the Stanleys took a universalist approach to collecting—they focused on global trends and big historical changes—Saunders considered African cultures at a local level with the viewpoint of a tourist. Comparing Saunders’s collection to that of the Stanleys reveals different ideas about what is canonical, what is valuable, and what is authentic. “Fragments of the Canon” also encourages viewers to contemplate the idea of who can collect art and who has the power to shape the stories we tell about history and culture. 

A guest stands in the corner of the "Fragments of the Canon" gallery: the walls are green, and they are surrounded by four works of art, carved from wood, on pedestals jutting out from the green painted walls.

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