The Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin is one of the world's foremost museums of anthropology, and the art of Central Africa is only one of the many strengths of its extensive African holdings. Although these important works have long been known and admired by scholars and collectors of African art through the museum's comprehensive program of publications, they have only occasionally been on public display in its galleries since 1945. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is therefore pleased to present an exhibition of the highlights of the Museum für Völkerkunde's collection of Central African sculpture.
The Museum für Völkerkunde is now part of the comprehensive seven-museum complex of the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Dahlem, West Berlin. The museum was formed in the 1870s and 1880s, decades that saw the creation of many of the world's premier museums of art, natural history, and anthropology. In contrast, The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired its first African sculpture in 1950, and the Museum of Primitive Art, whose collection merged with ours in 1978 and 1979, was founded in 1954. Thus, the African collection at the Metropolitan Museum was not begun until more than seventy years after the creation of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin, and consequently it is vastly different in size and scope. Central Africa in particular is one of the areas in which our own collection is not as rich. We are, therefore, all the more fortunate, thanks to the generosity and cooperation of the Berlin Museum für Völkerkunde, to be able to present a more complete view of Central Africa's major sculptural traditions to our visitors.