UMMA opens three new exhibitions online featuring works from its collection


Titus Kaphar's painting Flay (James Madison)

Titus Kaphar, Flay (James Madison), 2019, oil on canvas with nails. Museum purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen. 2019/2.184. From the UMMA exhibition Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism.

Like a lot of museums, the University of Michigan Museum of Art shifted exhibitions online as it became evident the pandemic would be dragging on for the foreseeable future. But versions of both exhibits UMMA posted had already been produced for its galleries: Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs, which ran in Fall 2019 (Pulp review), and Cullen Washington Jr.'s The Public Square, which ran from January 25, 2020, to March 13 when all of Michigan shut down.

And because the coronavirus crisis looks to drag on ad infinitum thanks to the federal government's gross abdication of responsibility, UMMA just moved ahead and produced its fall exhibitions with both online and in-person versions in mind. While there are no in-person opening dates for the three exhibits -- UMMA is working on some kind of staggered, socially distanced protocol that it will announce later -- you can check out all of them right now at

The three exhibits:

Curriculum / Collection pairs works from UMMA's collections with University of Michigan classes, highlighting the way art can add to any educational opportunity.
▶ I Write to You About Africa draws from UMMA's collection as well as from works across the U-M campus, which the museum made room for by doubling the space dedicated to African art. A small selection of works is available to see online now with the full exhibition opening in 2021.
▶ Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism takes UMMA's recent acquisition of Titus Kaphar’s Flay (James Madison) as a starting point to explore and question the museum's collection of European and American art between 1650 and 1850.

Yombe Power Figure and Shigeo Fukuda's Victory
Left: Yombe Power Figure, wood, mirror, glass, hide, fiber, feathers, resin, pigment, cloth, raffia and bone. 18 1/2 in x 17 5/16 in x 15 3/4 in (47 cm x 44 cm x 40 cm);18 1/2 in x 17 5/16 in x 15 3/4 in (47 cm x 44 cm x 40 cm). Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern. From the UMMA exhibition I Write to You About Africa.
Right: Shigeo Fukuda, Victory (Reproduction), screenprint on paper, 40 ½ in x 28 ¾ in (102.87 cm x 73.02 cm). Gift of the DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion. From the UMMA exhibition Curriculum / Collection.

From the press release:

This fall and winter at UMMA, we're examining whose history we prioritize in our collections and exhibitions, and reckoning with our own past while we make meaningful changes for the future.

In this preview of our upcoming exhibitions you'll see a focus on using the Museum's collections, gallery spaces, and online resources to examine uncomfortable truths about our past and take steps necessary to begin exposing and undoing systemic racist and colonialist structures within the institution. We're also focusing on contemporary African art, including several exciting recent acquisitions, and displaying a much broader representation of art from the African diaspora.

UMMA also announced two more online events that are coming up soon though they don't currently have opening dates:

Oh Honey...: A Queer Reading of the Collection features the selections of 2019 Stenn Curatorial Fellow Sean Kramer.
▶ Wish You Were Here offers 11 pieces of African art from UMMA's collection to spur a public discussion among researchers covering questions of ownership and repatriation.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.