MoMA Just Received an Extraordinary Donation of African Contemporary Art

Jean Depara, Les musiciens (The Musicians), 1975. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. CAAC-The Pigozzi Collection. Promised gift of Jean Pigozzi, 2019

If you’ve been looking to hit up certain NYC museums for a visit during the hottest months of the year, you may have been disappointed to discover that early in June, the Museum of Modern Art was closed for renovations that will span the rest of the summer. Especially during the dangerous heat wave that’s gripped the coast, one of the best ways to beat the punishing humidity is to duck into an air-conditioned artistic institution, so MoMA’s temporary closure feels like especially bad timing. Fortunately, there’s something fresh to look forward to when the museum reopens: Jean Pigozzi, an esteemed collector of African art, has donated 45 pieces to MoMA, and this slice of his collection encompasses a remarkable range of items including photographs, sculptures and drawings.

Pigozzi, who’s the son of the founder of the French automobile company Simca, has built his reputation on his autodidactic infatuation with many different fields: he’s a photographer, well-heeled fashion influencer and tech investor whose collection of contemporary African art is massive and expertly tended to, in spite of the fact that (as of 2015, at least) Pigozzi has never been to the continent himself. His new donation to the MoMA, which includes drawings by the Ethiopian mystic Gedewon, photographs by Malian artist Seydou Keïta and paintings by Congolese artists Moké and Cheri Samba, makes the museum’s collection of contemporary African art infinitely more robust.

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Bodys Isek Kingelez, U.N., 1995. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. CAAC-The Pigozzi Collection. Promised gift of Jean Pigozzi, 2019

“One of the commitments we made to our public and ourselves is to think differently and work differently with our collection—to have a collection that is constantly in motion and elevates voices that have been pushed to the margins,” Sarah Suzuki, MoMA’s curator of drawings and prints, told ARTnews. “This gift from [Jean Pigozzi] allows us in this incredible moment to dive into this material and put it in context with other things in our collection galleries, which is really exciting.”

By making this donation, Pigozzi has made it possible for far more people to be exposed to wonderful art they otherwise may not have had ready access to. When MoMA reopens in October, hopefully this newly bequeathed, diverse cache of work will be displayed front and center.

MoMA Just Received an Extraordinary Donation of African Contemporary Art