UMMA reopens to visitors, offers new and reinstalled exhibitions


University of Michigan Museum of Art

Photo courtesy of UMMA.

A recent issue of Hour Detroit magazine asked its freelancers for things they've missed most while the world shut down for the pandemic. Here's one of the items I submitted:

Like many museums, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) navigated the pandemic by putting its exhibitions online. But art is a dimensional experience, and pieces come to life when viewed in person, offering textures and nuances that are muted on a webpage. UMMA is a 10-minute drive from my front door, a five-minute walk from my office, and yet it has felt a million miles away for the past year. I look forward to shortening the distance between us once again.

Well, the wait is over.

UMMA is open.

Timed-entry reservations are required, but otherwise, Ann Arbor's little gem of an art museum is ready to receive your appreciative glances.

Here's what's currently on display, some events/activities, and what's coming soon:

Titus Kaphar's Flay painting

Titus Kaphar, Flay (James Madison), 2019, oil on canvas with nails. UMMA, Museum Purchase made possible by Joseph and Annette Allen, 2019/2.184

Unsettling Histories: Legacies of Slavery and Colonialism
Organized as a response to the Museum’s recent acquisition of Titus Kaphar’s Flay (James Madison), this reinstallation of one of our most prominent gallery spaces sees UMMA grapple with our collection of European and American art, 1650-1850. In the gallery, you'll experience the changes we're making to the physical space to highlight a more honest version of European and American history while exploring the Museum's efforts to deeply question our collection and our own past complicity in favoring colonial voices.

Photo of Curriculum / Collection pieces hanging on a wall

Photo courtesy of UMMA.

Curriculum / Collection
Through January 2022
In Curriculum / Collection, an incredible variety of University of Michigan courses take material form. Collected for each course are objects that address the nature of reality, imagination, and vision in relation to politics, social action, science, mathematics, and more.

Unrecorded Luba artist, Power Figure

Unrecorded Luba artist, Power Figure, circa 1930, wood, wicker, metal, antelope horns, fur, cord, seeds, and nuts. UMMA, Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern, 2005/1.214

Wish You Were Here: African Art and Restitution
August 21, 2021–July 3, 2022
This exhibition proactively engages with debates about restitution and the ethics of museums owning African heirlooms collected during the era of colonization. The investigation and research into 11 works of African art will be conducted publicly—visitors will have access to documents, photographs, and correspondence that will help UMMA develop a better understanding of each object’s history, grappling in real time with questions surrounding legal and ethical ownership of these artworks. This complex project presents exciting opportunities for museum transparency and creates new pathways for relationship-building with partners in Africa and its diaspora.

Sam Nhlengethwa, Tribute to Romare Bearden

Sam Nhlengethwa, Tribute to Romare Bearden, 2014, color lithograph on paper. UMMA, Museum Purchase made possible by DIrector's Acquisition Committee, 2016, 2016/2.8

We Write to You About Africa
Following years of research into the Museum’s and University of Michigan’s relationships with Africa and African art collections, We Write to You About Africa is a complete reinstallation and doubling of the Museum’s space dedicated to African art. Art collections, by their very nature, can not be anything other than subjective. With We Write To You About Africa, we examine the subjective ways UMMA and the University of Michigan as a whole have collected and presented art from and connected to the African diaspora. During the conceptualization phase of We Write To You About Africa, UMMA curators closely consulted several members of the African Studies Center, the executive board of the African Students Association, and members of the African Graduate Student Association. The exhibition centers around UMMA’s collection, as well as works collected by the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, the School of Social Work, the Museum of Anthropology, the Kelsey Museum of Archeology, and the African Studies Center. 

Bjarne Melgaard, Untitled

Bjarne Melgaard, Untitled, 2007, oil on canvas. UMMA, Gift of Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard, 2017/2.151

Oh, honey... A queer reading of UMMA's collection
August 21, 2021 - February 2022
This exhibition has been online since last fall, but now you can see the works in person.

A Thousand Ways (Part One: A Phone Call)

A Thousand Ways (Part One: A Phone Call)
July 13–18
This summer, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and UMMA present 600 Highwaymen’s A Thousand Ways, a new, multi-part work that offers enthralling social interactions that deliver us from isolation and toward togetherness. Part One: A Phone Call: On a simple phone call, you and another audience member—nameless strangers to one another—follow a carefully crafted set of directives. Over the course of the journey, a portrait of each other emerges through fleeting moments of exposure and the simple sound of an unseen voice.

2021 Summer Game
The Ann Arbor District Library's annual Summer Game is in full swing! There might even be a clue available at UMMA.

Juneteenth Talk: Articulations of Blackness, Black Life, and Black History in University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Collections
Ozi Uduma, UMMA's Assistant Curator of Global Contemporary Art, gave a talk for U-M's inaugural campus-wide Juneteenth Symposium. A recording of her talk is available to watch below.

Visit for even more events, activities, offers, and exhibitions.

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