Introduction

Visions from the Forests surveys the art of Liberia and Sierra Leone collected by William “Bill” Siegmann (1943–2011), a former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum who lived and worked in Liberia between 1965 and 1987. A Minneapolis native, Siegmann donated many of his treasures to the MIA in 2011.

His collection provides an excellent overview of the region’s traditional art forms: masks and other artworks used by men’s and women’s initiation associations; jewelry and prestige objects of cast brass, ivory, and horn; small stone figures from the 15th to 19th centuries; and woven and dyed textiles. The exhibition emphasizes the cultural context of these artworks, identifying artists or workshops whenever possible. This reveals the deeply personal and scholarly connections forged by Siegmann during his decades of research on the arts and cultures of this region.