Agent provocateur? The African origin and American life of a statue from Côte d'Ivoire

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4 Scopus citations


A biography of a statue sculpted in or near the Lagoon region of Côte d'Ivoire reveals how her "social life" has become entangled with American art history. Created to address spiritual beings in her homeland, she was purchased by Paul Guillaume in France and was exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz and Marius de Zayas in New York in 1914. Donated to Fisk University by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1949, she has engaged in a dialogue with African American artists. In all of these interactions, the figure has been not a passive object but an active agent of cultural change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-129
Number of pages31
JournalArt Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank several reviewers who provided valuable insights and critiques of different versions of this essay, including Yaëlle Biro, Richard Powell, Robert Jensen, Karen Lang, and the two anonymous readers for The Art Bulletin. I am grateful to Victor Simmons of Fisk University for his interest and assistance and to the many generous people who helped me obtain photographs and permissions for the illustrations. A Summer Research Grant from the University of Kentucky allowed me to write the first full draft, while Barbara Blackmun provided me with a research library and critical commentary. Funding for my research in Côte d’Ivoire was provided by the Fulbright Foundation (in 1983–84) and by the University of California, Santa Barbara, with the support of the Kress Foundation (in 1981); a Senior Fellowship at the National Museum of African Art (in 2004–5) allowed me to review and synthesize that material. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History


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