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Cleveland art museum gets 35 Congolese sculptures

June 4, 2011 (AP): The Cleveland Museum of Art is getting 35 pieces of 19th- and 20th-century Congolese sculpture from the collection of a Belgian art lover and her late husband.

The acquisition announced this weekend, which includes three rare male ``power figures'' and a bronze crucifix from the 19th century, greatly improves the quality of the museum's African collection, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported Saturday.

The museum didn't offer a dollar amount for the deal but said it was partly a donation by Odette Delenne of Brussels, who collected the pieces with her late husband, Rene Delenne, from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. Many of the sculptures are new to scholars and the public because they have not been exhibited or included in publication, according to the newspaper.

The museum plans to feature the Delenne collection in an exhibition in the spring of 2013.

Acquiring the pieces is a victory for the museum's curator of African art, Constantine ``Costa'' Petridis, who developed a friendship with the Delennes in the 1990s while working as an intern at the Ethnographic Museum of Antwerp in Belgium.

``I would have needed many decades to come remotely close to building a collection like this, even if it were possible in the market,'' Petridis told the newspaper.

Odette Delenne didn't want the best of her collection to go to a large U.S. museum where it would get less visibility or to Europe's ethnographic museums that often exhibit cultural artifacts from the perspective of anthropology, not art.

She chose Cleveland because it celebrates art from around the world and she ``understood her collection could make a difference'' there, Petridis said. The museum's collection of African art stands at about 300 objects.

It's difficult to find African sculptures and other objects from earlier than the 19th century because many of them are made of wood or other natural materials that decay. The Delennes looked for pieces that were preserved well and enhanced by references to the spiritual elements of African art, Petridis said.

``They were very sensitive to the ritual aspects and philosophy behind the art,'' he said, noting that a goal of the Delenne exhibition will be publishing a catalog that documents the Delennes' lives.

The couple collected items until the late 1970s, when African art became too expensive for them to continue adding to their collection, he said.

Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/14/11 16:32:46 -0700.





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