- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hollywood glamour couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones enthusiastically viewed selections from their friend Jean Pigozzi’s collection Friday evening at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

The Swiss-based Mr. Pigozzi, 52, an heir to the Simca automotive fortune, had selected 100 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs and other works by 20 artists from his storage warehouse of 6,000 contemporary African artworks for the second display in the United States of “African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection.” (The co-sponsoring Fine Arts Museum of Houston showcased the collection last spring.)

“We’ve seen parts of the collection before at his New York apartment and on his boat, but it’s even more wonderful seeing it placed with the museum’s traditional African art,” Miss Zeta-Jones said.

“These pieces are unique and they’re funny too,” Mr. Douglas added, walking hand-in?and with his wife as photographers’ flashes exploded. “I never find enough humor in art. The works also show an astonishing mix of cultures.”

Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small jump-started the evening by praising Mr. Pigozzi for discovering many African artists, including painter Cheri Samba, portrait photographer Seydou Keita, and Kinshasa School of Popular Painting founder Moke (aka Monsengwo Kejwamfi). Mr. Small also congratulated the collector for placing several of them in such major international exhibitions as Basel’s Documenta and Venice’s Biennale.

“When I arrived at Harvard in 1970,” Mr. Pigozzi replied, “I never dreamt that anything I was connected with would be shown at the Smithsonian. It all started in my little apartment in Paris with curator Andre Magnin’s help. I eventually founded the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) and we were able to discover about 20 great artists in the last 15 years.” Mr. Pigozzi also thanked Peter C. Marzio, director of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and a former director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, for co-organizing the exhibit and sending museum curator Alison de Lima Greene to assist with the show.

“The art is witty and interesting and unusual for this museum,” traditional African art collector Robert Nooter noted. The collection on display, he added “were sure to create more interest” in African contemporary works.

Joanna Shaw-Eagle

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