It all goes back to Africa. As the source of so much that makes New Orleans unique among cities, our Afro-Caribbean heritage looms large, but the influence of Africa is also evident in American music, modern art, the history of civilization and even the origin of human DNA itself. So it is really quite surprising that it took the American cultural establishment so long to recognize the importance of African art. Fortunately, the New Orleans Museum of Art, despite its limited resources as a smaller regional institution, was unusually prescient and ahead of the curve. In 1966, NOMA director James Byrnes hired a young African art specialist named William Fagaly to assemble a major collection, and for over four decades, with the encouragement of Byrnes’ successor, E. John Bullard, he did just that while making NOMA a leader in the field.
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