African Masters

African Masters

Art from the Ivory Coast

A groundbreaking overview of traditional and contemporary art from the  Ivory Coast.


  • Out of Print


Title Information

Essays by Eberhard Fischer, Lorenz Homberger, Monica Blackmun Visonà, Daniela Bognolo, and Bernard de Grunne

1st edition

, 2014


240 pages, 262 color and 42 b/w illustrations

24.5 x 28.5 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-761-7

In cooperation with Museum Rietberg Zürich


West Africa has a rich and long artistic tradition. In particular, Ivory Coast is home to a vast number of sculptors, some of which have created work that bears comparison with masters of European art, such as Michelangelo or Picasso. Yet the view still prevails that no aesthetic principles can be found in traditional African art, nor that independent artistic personalities have ever emerged from this tradition. Only “tribal workshops” with anonymous artist are identified.

African Masters proves this simplistic and patronizing verdict wrong. Essays by renowned scholars investigate the role of the artists in traditional, and modern, society, their ideal of beauty and its transformation into works of art. The book also offers the first comprehensive overview of the most significant sculptors from Ivory Coast and its neighboring countries. It discusses the oeuvre of ancient masters from the people of Guro, Senufo, Dan, Baule, Lobi, and from the lagoons and puts them in context with local contemporary art. African Masters features around 200 masterpieces from private and public collections, including that of Museum Rietberg Zürich, all in full color and many of full-page plates.


The book is published to coincide with exhibitions at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam (25 October 2014 to 15 February 2015) and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris (7 April to 26 July 2015).


Deutsche Ausgabe

Authors & Editors

Daniela Bognolo

, born 1946, is an ethnologist and a research collaborator at Centre d’études des mondes africains (CEMAf) in Paris.

Eberhard Fischer

, born 1941, studied ethnology, early history, and comparative theology. He has been director of Museum Rietberg Zürich 1972–98. He is an expert of West African art and has published widely and realized numerous exhibitions on the subject.

Bernard de Grunne

 is an expert in traditional African art. He has published widely on sculpture from Mali and Nigeria.

Lorenz Homberger

, born 1949, has been curator for African art at Museum Rietberg Zürich  1982–2014.

Monica Blackmun Visonà

 is an Associate Professor of art history at University of Kentucky, and editor of and contributor to numerous publications on African art.