While the Yale University Art Gallery undergoes its two-year renovations, preparations have been made to expand its Department of African Art.
Jock Reynolds, director of the gallery, recently announced the appointment of Fred Lamp GRD ’82 to the position of first Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Curator of African Art. Lamp will oversee the development of the gallery’s African collection — one of the largest and most important collections of African art in America.
“[The gallery] is one of the most exciting places in the country for African art, and is now even more exciting with the greatly expanded art gallery and with receiving this extremely important donation of a private collection,” Lamp said. “I spent five years at Yale, some of the best five years of my life. It was such a good experience, and I’ve kept up contacts. I’m eager to start.”
The Department of African Art has never had a curator in the past, and until several years ago, it was small enough to be looked after by curators in other departments. Although started early in this century with a few items of African art, the department has only recently grown to a gallery of considerable size and importance. The new curatorial position was made possible by a recent endowment from Charles Benenson ’33.
Marie Weltzien, director of public information for the gallery, said Lamp was selected from an extensive search of candidates from across the country.
“He has two decades of experience at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He’s traveled a great deal, and he altogether seemed a good fit,” she said. “He is a good teacher and has done quite a lot teaching, and that is important since we are a teaching institution.”
Lamp will head the new James and Laura Ross Gallery of African Art at Yale Art Gallery, which has recently acquired the Guy van Rijn Archives of African Art, as well as an anonymous gift of a major African art collection.
“One of my first projects will be to get acquainted with the current collection and the [anonymously donated] new collection, and to help select among those objects for a reinstallation of the entire gallery when the renovations are complete,” Lamp said.
Lamp is currently the head curator of the Arts of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceana at the Baltimore Museum. He is known for his writing, lecturing and organizing of numerous exhibitions and performances of African art, with a focus on the art of the Baga, a Guinean ethnic tribe.
“I’ve worked a lot with men’s and women’s initiation rites in Africa,” Lamp said. “My last project explored the idea that objects that we see in African art galleries are really only fragments of a larger art form — a total form, an integrated art form — that includes music and dance, theatrical aspects, audience participation, even smell and taste.”
Jay Fisher, Baltimore Museum of Art’s deputy director for curatorial affairs, said the staff of the museum is sorry to see Lamp go but he said they expressed their “enthusiastic congratulations” on his new appointment.
“We will miss Fred’s commitment to the curatorial field and the high standards he brought to his work — whether publications, labels, or his coordination of the many exhibitions we brought in from other institutions,” Fisher said in an e-mail.
Lamp will begin his new position on Jan. 1, and the Gallery of African Art is scheduled to reopen in two years after the completion of renovations in the Louis I. Kahn building.