NOMA Opens New Exhibition Highlighting Works by Contemporary African Artists

Elias Sime (Ethiopian, born 1968; active in Addis Ababa), Tightrope: Behind the Processor #2, 2022. Wall piece made from woven electrical wires, circuit boards, and other components on panel. Incoming Museum Purchase, E-2023-6.

NOMA Opens New Exhibition Highlighting Works by Contemporary African Artists
Afropolitan: Contemporary African Arts at NOMA highlights some of the most pioneering artists of the 20th and 21st centuries in NOMA’s collection

NEW ORLEANS – Last week, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) opened an exhibition highlighting works by contemporary African artists in the institution’s permanent collection. 

Afropolitan: Contemporary African Arts at NOMA—on view in The Helis Foundation Gallery on the museum’s second floor—includes paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media works by some of the most pioneering artists of the 20th and 21st centuries working in cities across the African continent.

“NOMA’s collection represents an extraordinary range of artistic expressions from around the world and throughout centuries,” said Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director at NOMA. “This installation reflects our continued commitment to artists who broaden our understanding of culture and our world today.”

In Afropolitan, recent acquisitions by contemporary African artists are juxtaposed with significant figures of the pre- and post-independence period, and reflect important art schools and workshops on the continent.

Featured artists include:

  • Elias Sime (b. 1968, active in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), who combines repurposed electrical wires, circuit boards, and other materials to consider the global impact of Western consumer culture.
  • Theophilus Nii Anum Sowah (b. 1968, active in Teshie, Ghana), whose Incredible Hulk Lunchbox Fantasy Coffin (abeduu adekai), 1995, playfully turns a cartoon lunchbox into an epic “proverb box,” traditionally used to creatively honor the deceased.
  • Seydou Keïta (1921–2001, active in Bamako, Mali and Paris, France) and Malik Sidibé (1936–2016, active in Bamako, Mali), studio photographers who fashioned powerful images of an emergent urban identity before and after Malian independence from France in 1960.
  • Serge Attukwei Clottey (b. 1986, active in Accra, Ghana, and Los Angeles, United States of America), who calls his practice “Afrogallonism,” using a motif of yellow water containers to explore themes of exploitation, consumption, and necessity.
  • Celebrated figures of contemporary art including William Kentridge, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and others.

“For over a century, African art has been mischaracterized by European and American art history as a static set of styles representing a distant past,” said Amanda M. Maples, Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art at NOMA. “This installation in NOMA’s contemporary art galleries emphasizes the vibrancy and diversity of African arts, African cities, and African cultures today.”

Together these works of art can be viewed through the lens of Afropolitanism, a term coined by writer Taiye Selasi to describe a collective identity built on individuals’ personal ties to Africa, cosmopolitan worldliness, and movement around the globe. In Selasi’s words, “We are Afropolitans—not citizens, but Africans, of the world.”

Afropolitan: Contemporary African Arts at NOMA is on view at NOMA throughout 2024.


Media Contacts

Charlie Tatum
Director of Marketing and Communications
New Orleans Museum of Art

Ra’Jae’ Wolf
Marketing and Communications Associate
New Orleans Museum of Art


About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and its Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden are home to innovative exhibitions, installations, educational programs, and research. Exploring human creativity across time, cultures, and disciplines, the global scope of the museum’s initiatives open a vibrant dialogue with the history and culture of New Orleans. The museum stewards a collection of nearly 50,000 works, with exceptional holdings in African art, photography, decorative arts, and Japanese art, as well as strengths in American and French art, and an expanding collection highlighting contemporary artists. The museum’s exhibitions and dynamic learning and engagement offerings serve as a forum for visitors to engage with diverse perspectives, share cultural experiences, and foster a life of learning at all ages. Recent exhibitions include Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club, Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers, The Orléans Collection (an exhibition of forty European masterpieces from the collection of the city’s namesake, Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans), East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth Century America Landscape Photography, and Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories (seven contemporary art projects focusing on reimagining stories from the city’s past).

NOMA’s 12-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden expands visitors’ experiences of the museum with one of the most notable sculpture gardens in the country. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, free and open to the public seven days a week, has nearly 100 sculptures and outdoor works of art situated in a unique landscape featuring Spanish moss-laden live oaks and a sinuous lagoon surrounded by an expansive ecosystem of native plants. The works in the garden range from the 19th to the 21st centuries, with pieces by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois, Ida Kohlmeyer, Claes Oldenburg, Sean Scully, Maya Lin, Do Ho Suh, Ugo Rondinone, Wangechi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, and many others. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden features contemporary design elements—including a sculpture pavilion, an amphitheater, and an architecturally significant canal link bridge connecting the garden’s original 2003 footprint with a 2019 expansion. Its water management practices support the health and resiliency of New Orleans City Park and the surrounding environment. Throughout the year, NOMA hosts outdoor programs in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden including festivals, performances, wellness classes, tours, and more.