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Reliquary figure (Byeri), Fang-Ntumu or Fang-Ngumba (Cameroon), 19th or 20th century, wood, brass / Enthroned Mother of God (Sedes Sapientiae), Presbyter Martinus, Tuscany (Italy), poplar wood with original mount, acquired in 1887 in Florence © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum / Martin Franken / Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst / Antje Voigt © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum / Martin Franken / Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst / Antje Voigt. 

BERLIN.- For the first time the sculptural traditions of Africa and Europe come together in a ‘conversation of the continents’ on the Museumsinsel Berlin. Over 70 major works of African sculpture from the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) are on display in the Bode-Museum. Art from western and central Africa meets masterpieces from Byzantium, Italy, and central Europe. Never before have the sculptural traditions of these two continents been compared so extensively. 

The preparations for the move to the Humboldt Forum offer us a unique opportunity to place the non-European holdings of the Staatliche Museen in dialogue with other works, reaching across the boundaries that traditionally divide the collections’, says Michael Eissenhauer, Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Director of the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art). Julien Chapuis, head of the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, adds: ‘The stimulating interplay between the African sculptures and our own collection not only promises to be a feast for the senses, but will also lead to fundamentally new insights.’ Viola König, Director of the Ehtnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum): ‘The exhibition's ethnological approach broadens the museum's focus on European art to include global contexts and brings the multi-perspectival displays, successfully practised by the curators in Dahlem, to the Museumsinsel.’ 

Some 20 juxtapositions throughout the permanent collection and a special-exhibition gallery address major themes of human experience, such as power, death, beauty, memory, aesthetics, and identity. Unexpected similarities and differences become apparent: the Renaissance sculptor Donatello’s putto with a tambourine seems to invite the Early Modern princess from the Kingdom of Benin to dance. Michel Erhart’s late Gothic Virgin of Mercy appears next to a power figure from the Congo, which, like the Madonna, was also created to protect a community. The Romanesque Christ seated in judgement from the Abbey Church of Gröningen and the large Ngil mask from the Fang region of Gabon or Cameroon both present awe-inspiring images of judges. Mythical heroes from central Africa take their place among late Gothic Christian figures and open up new perspectives on both collections. 

An extensive catalogue and an app accompanies the exhibition, both providing in-depth information on specific themes.

27.10.2017 until further notice 

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Bwiti Reliquary Figure, Kota or Kélé Artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo or Gabon, 19th century, wood, Copper, Wire, H. 53 cm, acquired 1877 from Oskar Lenz, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Martin Franken

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Reliquary bust of a bishop, Brussels (?), around 1520, oak and polychromy, H. 80, 2 cm, acquired 1961, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Antje Voigt.

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Leopard Aquamanile, Kingdom of Benin, 17th century, brass, H: 43.5 cm, acquired in 1900 from Hans Meyer, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Martin Franken.

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Lion Aquamanile, Lower Saxony, ca. 1500, bronze, H: 32.7 cm, acquired in 1951 from Adolf Weinmüller, Munich, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Antje Voigt.

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Statue of the goddess Irhevbu or of Princess Edeleyo, Member of the Igun Eronmwon (brass casters’ guild), Nigeria, Benin Kingdom, 16th or 17th century, copper alloy, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Martin Franken.

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Putto with Tambourine, Donatello, Italy, Florence, 1428-1429, bronze, traces of gilding, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Jörg P. Anders.

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Mangaaka (Power Figure, nkisi n'kondi), Loango, 19th century, wood, iron, porcelain, pigments, H. 117 cm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Claudia Obrocki.

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Virgin of Mercy, Michel Erhart, ca. 1480, linden wood with part of its original polychromy, H. 135 cm, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Antje Voigt.

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Mangaaka (Power Figure, nkisi n'kondi), Loango, 19th century, wood, iron, porcelain, pigments, H. 117 cm, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Claudia Obrocki.

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Jeanne de Navarre, Königin von Frankreich, Paris, ca. 1300, Kalkstein, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Eigentum des Kaiser Friedrich Museumsverein, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Antje Voigt.

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Chibinda Ilunga, Angola Chokwe, 19th century, Holz, Baumwollgewebe, Haare, Pflanzenfasern, Glasperle, H. 39 cm, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum, © SMB, Ethnologisches Museum, Claudia Obrocki.

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Christus im Elend, Hans Leinberger, ca. 1525, Lindenholz, alte Fassung, H. 75 cm, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, © SMB, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Antje Voigt.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

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Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode Museum. Installation view© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / David von Becker.

Unvergleichlich: Kunst aus Afrika im Bode-Museum | Bode-Museum | Ausstellungstrailer