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The Art of Small Things platform cantilevers from the wall, presenting the small scale artworks with minimal means. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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Clinical platforms constructed of white powder-coated steel contrast with, and highlight, KAM's collection of deeply textured works emergent from African culture. Here, cantilevered island displays cluster works in curatorial groups. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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Island displays pinwheel about the open center of the gallery enabling visitors to view works from all sides. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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Title wall and Akan Memorial Heads display platform. Graphic design by Studio Blue. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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The Art of Masking installation enables diversely sized masks to clamp onto a single beam, and slide into position. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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The Art of Masking's clamp-mounts can be adjusted vertically and horizontally providing flexibility for a diverse range of future aquisitions. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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Island diplay detail. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.
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The 12 Curatorial Groups.
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Grouping logic options study.
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Display concept axons study.
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Island displays pinwheel about the open center of the gallery enabling visitors to view works from all sides. © Krannert Art Museum, photograph: Chris Brown.

ENCOUNTERS: THE ARTS OF AFRICA

Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

R+L designed Encounters: The Arts of Africa, the new permanent exhibition of Krannert's renowned collection of African Art within the new gallery space. The exhibition displays are clinical platforms constructed of white powder-coated steel that contrast with KAM's collection of textured works emergent from African culture. The exhibition's 79 artworks are organized in 12 curatorial groups and housed in protective display islands in the gallery's center and in wall mounted displays around the gallery's perimeter.

A pinwheel of four island displays occupy the gallery's center and suggest visitor movement around and between them. The precisely machined perimeter displays are each conceived and proportioned for the groups of artworks within, including linear displays for The Art of Small Things and The Art of Masking, in which diversely sized masks clamp onto a single beam, and slide into position. Supported on individual, legged platforms are large single works like the Bamileke Elephant Crest Mask, Yoruba Epa Mask, and the Adire Eleko Cloth, which is simply unrolled over a steel tube apparatus.

Integrated iPads provide interactive interpretative elements, which minimize wall/object text and provide depth to the larger narrative associated with each work. In addition to celebrating the compelling aesthetic dimensions, global reach, and contemporary relevance of African visual arts, the African gallery also aims to raise awareness about the interpretive practices of museums and to provoke discussion about the "life histories" of the artworks on display.

Lyn Rice and Astrid Lipka, principals
Karl Larson, project designer (renovation)
Simon Ng, designer (exhibition)

Graphic Design: Studio Blue, Chicago.