Heddle Pulley. Côte d'Ivoire; Guro peoples, 19th century. Wood, pigment; H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm) Provenance: Félix Fénéon, Paris, before 1929; Dr. Charles Stéphen-Chauvet, Paris; Morris Pinto, Paris, before 1985; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1985

The Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva is home to one of Europe’s preeminent private collections of African and Oceanic art. Emphasizing the artistic heritage relating to two continents, the works testify to the achievements of the African and Oceanic masters who created them as well as their ongoing appreciation by scholars and collectors in the West.

The aspiring artist Josef Mueller began the collection more than a century ago, as the Parisian avant-garde awakened to and embraced the power of non-Western art. Heir to an industrial family, Mueller focused on collecting the works of contemporary European artists as well as the African sculptures that inspired them. Since 1955 his daughter Monique and her husband, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, have expanded upon that foundation, enriching the representation of art from across the Pacific.

The Barbier-Mueller Museum, opened in 1977, is dedicated to making the collection accessible to the public. Many of the masterpieces on view in this exhibition, landmarks of African and Oceanic sculpture, are being shown in the United States for the first time. They were selected for their exceptional aesthetic qualities, their historical interest, and their resonance with the Metropolitan’s holdings. The opportunity to compare objects from both institutions enhances our ability to develop a more nuanced appreciation of the singularity of these remarkable works of art.

The exhibition is made possible by Vacheron Constantin.

It was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in collaboration with the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva.


Serpent Headdress: A-Mantsho-ña-Tshol. Guinée, Boke district, village of Kanfrande; Baga peoples, 20th century. Provenance: Collected in the village of Kanfrande, by Henri Kamer in 1957; [John J. Klejman, 1968]; Dr. Mandlebaum, Brooklyn, 1968; [Merton Simpson, 1978]; [Henri Kamer, 1978–79]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1979


Funerary Post (detail). Southwestern Sudan; Bongo or Belanda Mbegumba peoples, 20th century. Provenance: Christian Duponcheel, 1972; [Henri Kamer, New York]; Barbier-Muller collection, since 1973


Power Figure: Nkisi Nkondi. Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kongo peoples, 18th–19th century. Provenance: St. Peter Clavier Sodalität Mission, Freiburg, Switzerland, before 1914; Josef Mueller, ca. 1950


Female Figure with Raised Arms. Mali, Bondum region, village of Tintam; Dogon peoples, 15th–18th century. Wood, clay, pigment; H. 29 7/8 in. (76 cm). Provenance: Emil Storrer, Zürich, before 1950; Josef Mueller, ca. 1950


Poro Female Figure: Pombia. Côte d'Ivoire, village of Lataha; Senufo peoples, 19th century. Wood; H. 46 1/2 in. (118 cm). Provenance: Collected by Fr. Clamens in Lataha village, Côte d'Ivoire, 1951; [Emil Storrer, Paris, 1952]; Josef Mueller, 1952


Female Figure. Southern Burkina Faso, Léo region; Nuna peoples, 19th century. Wood; H. 32 5/8 in. (83 cm). Provenance: Collected in southern Burkina Faso by Henri Kamer in 1970; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1974


Plank Mask: Kinta-Loniakê. Southern Burkina Faso; Tussian peoples, first half of the 20th century. Wood, seeds, shells, kaolin, vegetable fibers; H. 26 3/8 in. (67 cm) Provenance: [Robert Duperrier, Paris, until 1968]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1968


Mblo Twin Mask. Côte d'Ivoire; Baule peoples, 19th century. Wood, pigment; H. 11 3/8 in. (29 cm) Provenance: Roger Bédiat, Côte d'Ivoire, before 1955; [Henri Kamer, 1955]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1978


Mask: Kidumu. Republic of Congo; Teke peoples, Tsaayi group, 19th century. Wood, paint; H. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm) Provenance: André Derain, Paris, before 1930; [Charles Ratton, Paris, late 1930s]; Josef Mueller, before 1939


Female Figure for a Trance diviner: asye usu. Côte d'Ivoire; Baule peoples, 19th–20th century. Wood, pigment; H. 17 3/8 in. (44 cm) Provenance: Josef Mueller before 1930


Staff Finial. Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kongo peoples, 19th century. Ivory; H. 8 5/8 in. (22 cm) Provenance: [Merton Simpson, Paris, before 1979]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1979


Female Figure. Northern Angola; Shinji peoples, 19th century? Wood; H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm) Provenance: George Feher, New York; [Hélène Leloup, New York, before 1989]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1989


Sculptural Element from a Reliquary. Gabon ; Kota peoples, Obamba or Mindumu groups, 19th century. Wood, brass, copper; H. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm) Provenance: [Olivier le Corneur, Paris]; [Alain de Monbrison, Paris, before 1984]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1984


Prestige Stool. Cameroon, Grassfields Region, Fumban; Bamum peoples, 19th century . Wood, copper, shells, beads; H. 22 1/2 in. (57 cm). Provenance: Given by King Ibrahim Njoya to Capt. Hans Glauning, Cameroon, 1905; Glauning family, Germany until 1928; [Arthur Speyer, Sr., Berlin, 1928]; Charles Ratton, Paris, 1936; [Guy Ladrière, Paris, 1981]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1985


Kneeling Male Figure. Mali; Inland Niger Delta, 14th–16th century. Terracotta; H. 17 3/8 in. (44.3 cm) Provenance: [René Garcia, Paris, before 1985]; Barbier-Mueller collection, 1985


Pendant: Kneeling Male Figure. Mali; Inland Niger Delta, 14th–16th century. Copper alloy; H. 3 3/4 in. (9.6 cm) Provenance: [Philippe Guimiot, New York, before 1984]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1984


Ornament: Male Figure with Raised Arms. Mali; Inland Niger Delta, 13th–15th century. Copper alloy; H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Provenance: [Merton Simpson, New York, before 1983]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1983


Head Crest. Nigeria, Cross River region; Ejagham peoples, 19th–20th century. Wood, antelope skin, pigment; H. 28 1/8 in. (71.5 cm) Provenance: [Lin and Emile Deletaille, Brussels, 2000]; [Pierre Loos, Brussels, before 2002]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 2002


Female Head. Nigeria; Ife, 12th–14th century. Terracotta; H. 9 7/8 in. (25 cm). Provenance: Private collection, New York, 1980s; [Alain de Monbrison, Paris, 2000]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 2005


Roof Finial Figure. Papua New Guinea, Lower Sepik region, Yuat River, Biwat people, early 20th century. Wood, traces of paint, shell, fiber, feathers; H: 57 1/2 in. (146 cm) Provenance: A. Speyer, Berlin, 1930's; L. and E. Eckert-Voegelin, Basel, before 1978; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1978


Figure (Bioma). Papua New Guinea, Papuan Gulf, Urama Island and Era River region, 19th century. Wood, paint; H: 51 in. (130 cm)Provenance: Austro-Hungarian collection, before 1914; Ralph Nash, London; [John J. Klejman, New York, 1970]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1970


Initiation Mask. Papua New Guinea, Witu Islands, 19th century. Rattan, bamboo, bast, wood, paint, fiber; H: 26 in. (66 cm) Provenance: Collected by Lajos Biro, 1900; Ethnographical Museum of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary; [Everett Rassiga, New York, 1973]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1973


Funerary Figure (Kulap). Southern New Ireland, 19th century. Limestone, fiber; H: 29 1/2 in. (75 cm) Provenance: Collected in New Ireland, ca. 1890; Augustus H. L. F. Pitt-rivers, Pitt Rivers Museum, Farnham, Dorset, 1898; [W. D. Webster, London, before 1900]; Stella Pitt-Rivers; John Hewett, London; [Mathias Komor, New York, 1977], Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1977


Helmet Mask. Northern New Ireland, 19th century. Wood, paint, beeswax, fiber, shell; H: 40 in. (102 cm) Provenance: Collected by Giovanni Bettanin, before 1904; Ethnographical Museum of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary; [Emile Deletaille, New York, 1984], Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1984


Canoe Prow Ornament (Nguzunguzu). Solomon Islands, New Georgia, Roviana Lagoon, 19th century. Wood, paint, shell; H: 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm) Provenance: Collected by Rodolphe Festetics de Tolna, Roviana, Solomon Islands, 1895; Charles Stéphen-Chauvet, Paris, before 1939; [A. Emert, Paris, 1939]; Joseph Mueller/Barbier Mueller collection, since 1939


Forehead Ornament (Kapkap). Western Solomon Islands, 19th century. Tridacna shell, turtle shell, fiber; Diam: 4 3/4 in. (12 cm) Provenance: H. Gibson, England, before 1893; Royal United Services Institute Museum, London, 1893; James Hooper, England, before 1979; [Christie's, London 1980], Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1980


Mask. Northern Solomon Islands, Nissan Island, 19th century. Bark cloth, fiber, wood, parinarium nut resin, paint; H: 23 1/4 in. (59 cm) Provenance: Collected by Richard Parkinson, before 1903; Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Germany; [Maurice Bonnefoy, Geneva, 1969]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1969


Ceremonial Platter (Rova). Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo Island, Tsureviu village, 19th century Wood; H: 34 1/4 in. (87 cm) Provenance: Collected by Rev. Yates, Tsureviu village, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu; Ralph Nash, London; [John J. Klejman, New York, 1969]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1969


Mask (Mawa). Torres Strait, Saibai Island, 19th century. Wood, paint, hair, fiber; H: 27 in. (69 cm) Provenance: Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne, Australia, before 1900; F. Cooper Smith, Melbourne, ca. 1930; Roberta Nochimson, New York, 1972; [Lance Entwistle, London, 1973], Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1973


Female Figure (Dinonga Eidu). Caroline Islands, Nukuoro Island, 18th–19th century. Wood; H: 15 13/16 in. (40.2 cm) Provenance: Paul Guillaume, Paris; Marie-Ange Ciolkowksa; George Ortiz, Switzerland; [Lance Entwistle, London, 1986]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1986


Fan Handle. Cook Islands, Rarotonga, late 18th–early 19th century. Wood; H: 4 3/4 in. (12.5 cm) Provenance: James Keggie, London, before 1951; James Hooper, England, 1951-1979; [Christie's, London, 1979]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1979


Anthropomorphic Kava Bowl (Daveniyaqona). Fiji, eastern Viti Levu Island, early 19th century. Wood; H: 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm) Provenance: Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne, Australia, 1900–ca. 1953; private collection, Australia, ca. 1953; Roberta Nochimson; [Lance Entwistle]; George Ortiz, Switzerland; [Lance Entwistle, London, 1986]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1986


Male Figure (Moai Tangata). Rapa Nui (Easter Island), early 19th century. Wood, obsidian, bone; H: 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm) Provenance: Sir Jacob Epstein, England; John Hewett, England, 1962; [Aaron Furman, New York, 1972]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1972


Equestrian Figure, Portrait of a Chief. Indonesia, Sumatra, Toba Batak people, 19th century. Stone; H: 34 1/4 in. (87 cm) Provenance: [Emile Deletaille, Brussels, 1979]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1979


Shield. Timor-Leste (East Timor), Ataúro Island, 19th century. Wood, metal, paint, horn; H: 35 3/4 in. (90.8 cm) Provenance: Reportedly in Bali, Indonesia, 1977; Belgian antique dealer, 1979; James Willis, San Francisco, 1981; [R. Van der Stukken, Brussels, 1982]; Barbier-Mueller collection, since 1982





Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times            

“African and Oceanic Art From the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva: A Legacy of Collecting” is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Sept. 27.