National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. S.W., is entered from a pavilion in the Enid A. Haupt Garden on the s. side of the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle). Except for the entrance pavilion, this Smithsonian museum is housed in a three-level complex that is entirely underground. It promotes engagement with the dynamic arts of Africa and its diasporas and affirms the key role of African art in the global artistic community.
Collections date from the 13th century to the present and span both traditional and contemporary African art. The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection is renowned for its many rare and unique works.
The works on view cover a range of object types and materials. Regalia and personal adornment, particularly when worn by political leaders, is a hallmark of African art, and there are many examples of ceremonial clothing, formal jewelry, staffs and masks. Artistic expression also is reflected in the practical items of daily life—stools, chairs, headrests, pipes, drinking horns and baskets. Contemporary expressions include paintings, time-based media and sculptures.
These wood, ivory, metal, beaded, ceramic and fiber arts, along with the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives and Warren M. Robbins Library, provide important resources for the study of African art and culture. Rotating exhibitions are presented regularly.