Arts of Africa, Oceania, America (pre-columbian)
Above the entrance to the Musée de l'Homme in Paris are engraved these words by Paul Valéry: "He who enters will decide whether I am tomb or treasure, whether I am to remain silent or speak." Today, museum treasures are speaking louder than ever before. Museums of anthropology are broadening their horizons and their approach. Everyday objects from different lands are being exhibited to the public not only for their cultural and historical interest, but also as things of beauty in their own right. The cluttered collections may not be entirely a thing of the past, but anthropological museum curators are making a determined effort to attract larger groups of visitors from all walks of life.
This new spirit is increasingly evident everywhere. We find it at the Museum of Anthropology of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, at the National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec, Mexico, the Museum of History and Technology in Washington. A noteworthy example is offered by the recent exhibition of the Masterpieces of the Museum of Man. One hundred works selected from amongst the pre-History, the pre-Columbian American, the Africa and Oceana collections of the museum were brought together first of all for their beauty as works of art and only secondarily for their anthropological and cultural interest.
On the following pages the Unesco Courier is pleased to offer its readers a few glimpses from this unusual exhibition as well as its accompaning catalogue a superb work of art itself which featured illuminating texts by some of France's most noted anthropology experts such as Michel Leiris, Georges Henri Rivière, Henri Lehmann, Roger Heim and Françoise Girard.