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Africa, the Art of a Continent: 100 Works of Power and Beauty Hardcover – 1 Sep 1996


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (1 Sept. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810968940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810968943
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 25.4 x 31.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,463,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Inspired by an exhibition which was held at the Guggenheim Museum in the summer of 1996, this is an overview of the art traditions of Africa, the birthplace of human civilization and the source of some of mankind's earliest art objects. In addition to the celebrated art of Ancient Egypt, the book presents works from the Guinea Coast, Sahel and Savanna, and North Africa. Spectacular sculptures in wood, bronze and stone, as well as painting, ceremonial pieces, ceramics, jewellery and textiles, provide evidence that, although these works were not made as "art" - a concept which the book argues was unknown to their makers - they can be enjoyed and appreciated by Western viewers purely on their aesthetic merits. An international team of scholars explores the significance of the objects reproduced.

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 9 Oct. 1998
Format: Hardcover
One of the most complete general works on African Art and well worth purchasing for detailed information on the variation in art form, tribe, country and art style in Africa. Almost full tribal location information and regionalised art details makes this book a must for the serious collector and student on the subject. From early Egyptian to more recent times, it is a book you have to read several times to understand that no one can ever know the true depth and complexity within the African Art world. A good all round reference book on a much missunderstood and underated art form.
Mark Farley
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AC Wheatley on 11 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the catalogue of the 1996 Royal Academy 'Africa: the art of a continent' exhibition which, I believe, was the first UK exhibition of art from across the many nations of Africa. It is arranged geographically, is sumptuously illustrated and accompanied by informed, thoughtful and helpful narratives that give an historical context to the art. It's a wonderful book, but with more than 600 pages, it's also very heavy!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
African Art, a true collectors edition. 9 Oct. 1998
By mfarley@pavilion.co.uk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
One of the most complete general works on African Art and well worth purchasing for detailed information on the variation in art form, tribe, country and art style in Africa. Almost full tribal location information and regionalised art details makes this book a must for the serious collector and student on the subject. From early Egyptian to more recent times, it is a book you have to read several times to understand that no one can ever know the true depth and complexity within the African Art world. A good all round reference book on a much missunderstood and underated art form.
Mark Farley
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Art of a Continent 10 Mar. 2006
By Arthur V. Rowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very informmative text, very easy to read, and understand. With pictures, and text that visually and verbably discribe in detail each object listed. Great number of art objects not available to view without the photographs in this book I am 100% satisfied with this book and will use it as a reference, on an ongoing basis. A must for the collector of African Art.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Final Grade: 81% 19 Mar. 2007
By The Sesh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a fair collection of colour and black and white photos of African art from all over the continent. Of all the areas, East Africa (excluding the Horn of Africa) is given the least attention. I think they could have also expanded on Ethiopian art.

Another problem is the lack of showing contemporary African art (it assumes that new Euro-influenced art is no longer African. This is of course ridiculous since contemporary Euro art since the late 19th century has been heavily African influence, yet remains European art)

Also, the book does not include African architectural art. Though I only gave it a B-minus, if there was a sliding scale I'd have to give it an A-minus due to the lack of good art books regarding Africa.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Formidable scope, admirable execution. 25 Nov. 2012
By James I. Cole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Softcover, 12" x 9.75", 617 pages, 9 detailed maps, bibliography, index of ethnic groups. Edited by Tom Phillips. Sections on Ancient Egypt and Nubia, (89 objects), Eastern Africa, (67 objects), Southern Africa, (48 objects), West Africa and the Guinea Coast,(142 objects), Sahel and Savanna,(60 objects), and Northern Africa, (67 objects). Published by Prestel, 1999.

The scope of this impressive book is nothing less than the art of the entire continent of Africa, from 3,000 years B.C. to the 20th Century. Nearly 500 works of art are depicted in color, and most items are of a very high quality, and well photographed. The item descriptions are excellent, and the text is informative and easy to read. This is definitely not a specialty book, and for detailed information on Africa's art and tribal cultures, books on individual regions and tribes abound. However, for a overview of the myriad art forms of the whole continent, this book does as well or better than any publication I've seen. As is usual with Prestel publications, the quality of the paper, binding and presentation is excellent.

Pricing note : As a mass-market publication, printed both in hardback and softcover, this book is readily available in used condition. As of late 2012, it could be purchased for under $20, which makes it the best value tribal art book in the marketplace. Enjoy !
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Amateurish"... Pathetically Misleading 16 Sept. 2014
By fastidious one - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Tom Phillips has "hoodwinked" and fooled the inexperienced, amateurs and unsuspecting with this publication!

This book --- edited by Tom Phillips is a record of a hastily assembled exhibition from 1995. I am finally getting around to writing a careful (long overdue) review on this publication. Although many people became offended by the exhibition's presentation, there is little doubt that the show helped increase the public's awareness of African art.

The late-great professor Roy Sieber commented on the lack of educational background of the Royal Academy exhibition, and suggested that Tom Phillips is undoing fifty years of art studies by claiming, (as so many like Roger Fry), 'Don't give me facts, just let me look at the object.'' That is clearly the theme today. A learned or discerning African art enthusiast does not have to look very far and see this. This includes the majority of those among (supposed) specialized "African Arts" research and study groups.

1). The late Dr. Roy Sieber, professor (emeritus) of art history at Indiana University stated in "Out of Africa", written by Steven Vincent, Art & Auction, May 1996, p.123, also stated "As in the "Primitivism" exhibition at MoMA, the curatorial responsibilities of the Royal Academy show were handled by people not trained as African art historians. It was curated by Tom Phillips, a collector of African art, who defined himself as an "amateur in the old-fashioned English sense." (Art & Auction, May 1996, p. 126.) In today's highly educated and competitive curatorial work force it is difficult to imagine a major Renaissance, Egyptian, or Modernist exhibition curated by someone without so-called "proper credentials" in the field." Then this begs the question as to why was the major African art exhibition of the decade was not curated by an African art historian.

2). Tom Phillips, curator of the exhibition, quoted in "Out of Africa" written by Steven Vincent, Art & Auction, May 1996, p.123, "The presupposition of this curatorial construction of "equality" can be interpreted as patronizing"...

3). While the term "cultural imperialism" may be occasionally used, it is generally overlooked and not well defined. Basically, it relates to the placement of African art/artifacts through-out western museum settings... Within its own system of ordering without acknowledging the important historical descriptions, definitions and naming within western museums when viewing African works as "high" art. By placing these objects in a context of "high" art --- which is also a western category, museums may neglect any sense of ORIGINAL cultural context or significance as in the London's Royal Academy of the Arts exhibition, "Africa: The Art of a Continent." James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture (Cambridge,1988) expresses that this shift requires a "critical historical discussion, not celebration." I totally agree with James Clifford!

Sadly enough, Cornel West (one of my admired "black" philosophers) seems to have also fallen prey to the nice array of glossy photographs and patronizing psychobabble in his preface endorsement on page 9 in this book.

The subject of African "art" requires true purveyors, and passionate connoisseurs... Not people that simply follow individuals such as Tom Phillips with his atrocious "don't give me the facts, just let me look at the object" mentality.

... Yet, another shameful and reprehensible African art publication taking (credulous) people by popular demand.
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