Africa & Byzantium exhibition explores the artistic legacy of Medieval Africa

The Met Fifth Avenue is gearing up to host a groundbreaking exhibition that promises to rewrite the narrative of art history. Africa & Byzantium, set to run from November 19th, 2023, to March 3rd, 2024, in Gallery 199, seeks to shed light on the rich artistic contributions of North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia and other African kingdoms to the Byzantine Empire, a story often overshadowed by traditional art historical emphasis.

Africa & Byzantium will feature more than 200 works of art from North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, and other African kingdoms that influenced and were influenced by Byzantine culture.

Art enthusiasts and history buffs alike will be treated to a treasure trove of masterpieces encompassing various mediums. From intricate mosaics, sculptures, pottery, and metalwork to opulent luxury objects, paintings, and religious manuscripts, the exhibition will explore the vital roles that these African regions played in shaping the Mediterranean world’s cultural tapestry.

It will showcase the artistic achievements of African artists, craftsmen, and patrons who created stunning works of art from mosaic, sculpture, pottery, metalwork, luxury objects, paintings, and religious manuscripts. Many of these artworks have rarely or never been shown in public before and will offer new insights into the complex and dynamic interactions between Africa and Byzantium.

The exhibition, a result of collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cleveland Museum of Art, boasts an impressive lineup of artworks, some of which have never graced public view before. 

Africa & Byzantium will also explore the role of Africa in international networks of trade and cultural exchange that spanned the Mediterranean world and beyond. The exhibition will highlight how African kingdoms such as Aksum, Nubia, Makuria, Alwa, Ethiopia, Fatimid Egypt, Ifriqiya, and Almoravid Morocco engaged with Byzantium and other regions through diplomacy, commerce, warfare, pilgrimage, and religious conversion. The exhibition will demonstrate how these cross-cultural encounters shaped the artistic, economic, and social life of both Africa and Byzantium.

The event aims to foster a deeper understanding of the dynamic interactions between Africa and Byzantium, spotlighting the vibrant multiethnic societies that exerted a profound influence on both artistic and cultural spheres.

Supported by esteemed institutions such as the Ford Foundation, The Giorgi Family Foundation, and Mary Jaharis, the “Africa & Byzantium” exhibition wouldn’t have been possible without the generous contributions from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. These funding sources underline the importance of preserving and disseminating historical knowledge in a democratic society.

The exhibition’s accompanying catalogue, made possible by The Giorgi Family Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, promises to be a comprehensive resource for art scholars and enthusiasts alike. Additional backing from various entities, including the Michel David-Weill Fund, The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications, further attests to the significance of the exhibition in redefining our understanding of medieval art and culture.

As the opening date approaches, anticipation is growing for an enlightening experience that promises to bridge the gap between continents and civilisations, unveiling an interconnected web of artistic innovation and exchange. Visitors are expected to walk away with a new appreciation for the symbiotic relationships that shaped the premodern world and continue to influence our understanding of history and culture today.




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