Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Beautiful bronze sculptures and castings from West Africa have long been on display in some of the world’s most famous institutions, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Wednesday that it will return three of these artworks to Nigeria. They include two 16th-century copper tablets created at the Court of Benin, and a brass head produced in Yves around the 14th century.
“…the paintings produced in the court of Benin, warrior boss And the Junior court officialThey were among the works removed from the royal palace in 1897 during the British military occupation of Benin,” the Met explained in a statement. (The boundaries have changed over the years and the former Kingdom of Benin, where these artworks originated, in what is now southern Nigeria.)
“After that military campaign, they entered the collection of the British Museum in London from 1898 to 1950,” the statement continued. “In 1950-1951, the British Museum transferred these two paintings (and 24 others) to the National Museum in Lagos. Although the National Museum never joined them, the two paintings entered the international art market on an unknown date and under unclear circumstances. Finally acquired by a collector from New York.”
The mysterious collector donated the works — and his other Benin bronzes — to the Met in 1991. Over the past year, the Met Museum said it has researched its source, in collaboration with the Nigerian National Commission on Museums and Antiquities. I decided to bring the business back to Nigeria. The Ife chief, Originally from the Nigerian Wunmonije complex, it was offered to the Met for sale, and the Museum mediated its return.
“The Met is Not Journalist Barnaby Phillips, author of the recently released book, says: Lot: Britain and Benin Bronze. “They want to be seen as good and helpful partners for Nigeria. It was noted in the statement that they are also showing their support for the proposed Edo Museum of West African Art, a museum that does not yet exist.”
Phillips explains that proponents hope that one day the Edo Museum of West African Art in Benin City will be built to house a world-class collection of Benin bronze, including those captured illegally and displayed in the West for generations.
“We welcome the evolving convergence of the museum world, and appreciate the sense of justice that the Metropolitan Museum of Art displays,” said Alhaji Lai Muhammad, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Nigeria urges other museums to take advantage of this. The art world could be a better place if every owner of cultural artifacts considered the rights and feelings of the disadvantaged.”