September 19, 2019

Biennial commission program, fall exhibitions

University of Michigan Museum of Art

Meleko Mokgosi, Acts of Resistance, 2018. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist. © Meleko Mokgosi.

Meleko Mokgosi commission; Mari Katayama US solo debut; Collection Ensemble installation; crowd-sourced acquisition project; and more

This fall the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) launches several new projects as it actively imagines the museum of the future. Through creative partnerships with artists and the public, these projects rethink critical approaches across the Museum and its revered permanent collection.

New biennial commission program: Meleko Mokgosi’s Pan-African Pulp
Through fall 2021
For the first time since its founding in 1946, UMMA is initiating a biennial commission program for new art. Faculty, students, and the public will collaborate with the artists and witness their work as they’re making it. UMMA’s first commission is by artist Meleko Mokgosi. In Pan-African Pulp, Mokgosi explores the history of Pan-Africanism, the global movement to unite ethnic groups of sub-Saharan African descent. His installation features large-scale panels inspired by African photo novels of the 1960s and ’70s, a mural examining the complexity of blackness, posters from Pan-African movements from around the world, and stories from Setswana literature. Pan-African Pulp is vividly inspired by Detroit’s deep history of activism, where organizations such as Black Nation of Islam, The Republic of New Afrika, and United Negro Improvement Association were founded. The continued call for civil rights and social and economic justice across the country heightens the importance of Mokgosi’s project and reveals deep connections between these historical movements and those developing today.

ArtGym—Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs
September 21, 2019–February 23, 2020
This month UMMA debuts ArtGym, a gallery dedicated to exploring new practices and testing collaborations with the public and U-M campus. ArtGym’s first exhibition, Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs, asks visitors to select up to 250 photographs for UMMA’s permanent collection. What belongs in a permanent collection, and why? Who and what should be represented, and who should decide? This exhibition considers these questions in regard to 1,000 amateur photographs on loan from the private collection of Peter J. Cohen—images that depict all aspects of 20th century daily life in the United States. Such pictures have particular significance in the current digital age, constituting important artifacts of visual culture and precedents for the photographs we still make today. Voting takes place through January 12, 2020; final selections will be on view through February 23, 2020 and then accessioned into UMMA’s collection.

Collection Ensemble
Collection Ensemble presents the first major reinstallation of UMMA's iconic apse in a decade. It exchanges the previous focus on European and American painting for a broad mix of American, European, African, and Asian art from across the Museum's remarkable, disparate holdings. Featuring works by forty-one artists, many of them artists of color and women—including Charles Alston, Khaled al-Saa'i, Norio Azuma, Theaster Gates, Candida Höfer, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Dinh Q. Lê, and Kara Walker—Collection Ensemble reimagines the collection not as a fixed entity with one set of meanings, but instead as an active, creative, sometimes startling source of material and ideas, open for debate and interpretation.

Mari Katayama
October 12, 2019–January 26, 2020
In her first solo US exhibition, Japanese artist Mari Katayama (born 1987) features her own body in a provocative series of works combining photography, sculpture, and textiles. Born with a congenital condition, the artist had both her legs amputated at the age of nine. In order to fill a deep gap between her own understanding of self and physicality, Katayama began to explore her identity by objectifying her body in her art. The unflinching display of the vulnerabilities and limits of Katayama’s body invites conversation about anxieties and wounds for all of us—disabled or nondisabled—living in an age obsessed with body image.

For a complete list of UMMA’s exhibitions and programs, please visit

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