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Spirited Objects: African Art from the Ann Nathan Collection

After almost 30 years, Ann Nathan closed her eponymous Chicago gallery at the end of 2016. Ann is a true collector — always ahead of the curve, she lives with an eclectic mix of fine art and folk, iconic furniture and other extraordinary objects. Her clients are missing her vision and the spirit she brought to the art world. Ann is the mother of PAGODA RED founder Betsy Nathan.

We are thrilled to bring some of Ann’s collection to the gallery and carry on what she started. A lover of African Art, Ann began looking at these works early in her journey, studying and carefully selecting masks and objects over many decades. She had deep relationships with African dealers and an eye for the most unusual. Here are the stories behind a few of them.


Igbo Antelope Mask

Ann collected Igbo masks from Nigeria, and this antelope is a rare example. The fine finish and detail work on this antelope mask are hallmarks of the Igbo master craftspeople. Subtly reshaping known forms to evoke specific sensations and emotions is a hallmark of African tribal art. The sleek, simplified form is evocative, calling to mind all the beauty and grace of the antelope in motion. African artists’ ability to capture and represent creatures’ spirits in this way influenced the development of Western Expressionism.


Dan Chair with Double Hourglass Legs

African furniture is deceptively simple. The slight retractions to the seat and double hourglass legs mark this as a traditional chair made by the Dan people of Liberia. The moon-sliver backrest and low seat helped women to comfortably work through domestic tasks, using the floor as their workspace.

In contrast, Bamileke Stools and Senufo Stools were hand-carved from single tree trunks. Their minimal shapes make them feel at home with furniture of all styles, and their warm, well-patinated wood brings warmth to modern spaces.


Lobi Chaise in the Gallery

A standout from the collection, this Lobi Chaise originated in Ghana. Its sweeping curves and subtle decoration are a rustic counterpoint to our Shanghai Deco Couch, Stamped Clay Pot, and Samarkand Rug.  It adds dimension to a seating area — an interesting place to rest a glass or stack of books.


Lobi Figurative Stool

The Lobi peoples of Ghana and Burkina Faso have a deep focus on agriculture, leaving less of their time for artistic endeavors. A notable exception is their figurative stool designs. Many stools featured the head of a person who was dear to the owner, making each a beloved personal item. Charmed in its history, this carved wooden stool with connected legs is wonderfully sculptural and subtly decorated, adorned with intricately incised patterns along the seat and legs.


Kuba Raffia Tcaka Textile

Visually dynamic and highly textured, this raffia textile expresses the irregular, geometric patterns typical of Kuba textile art. Created by an artisan of the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this textile form is a wrapped skirt known as tcaka, made by patterning a long raffia textile with appliqué patches. The geometric designs are restrained and balanced yet inherently rhythmic.


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African Art

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