Special Exhibition: 

Masks Then and Now: 

Inspiration and Interpretation 


It has been fashionable of late to access the merits of tribal art in a decontextualized manner. We often use a language of connoisseurship to assign aesthetic value to a ritual object now defined as a work of art. This, despite the fact that when it was created such criterion may never have been remotely considered. Instead, indigenous ideals of beauty based on ancestral traditions and iconic efficacy would have been more important. To this end, an art brut mask may be more effective in ceremonies than a conventionally pretty mask and therefore be handed down for more generations and develop a deep patina as a result. It is one of the great aspects, for example of masks of Nepal’s Middle Hills, that they can with their often tough chaotic visage turn our sense of aesthetics upside down. This is a good thing; we need that!
The decontextualized approach mentioned above has extended our appreciation of tribal art in the sense that it has brought much of it into the mainstream, but thankfully the animistic masks of Tribal Asia still have not been codified. We have the chance to bring our own taste to a discussion where there are no wrong answers.

>View Images of Installation

This author curated a special exhibition, Masks Then and Now: Inspiration and Interpretation, at the entrance of the San Francisco Tribal Art Fair that took place at Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, February 6-9, 2014. Masks of the Himalayas and Indonesia was presented along with contemporary works from the "Shamanic Mask Series" by sculptor Mort Golub that shared common themes of animism and transformation. We present here a sampling of 60 masks of each type that were part of this major exhibition.

For a deeper discussion on this worthy topic and the personal history of Mort Golub's progression from collector to artist, please read: Transformation Masks and Artistic Metamorphosis, an essay that appeared in the show catalog but which may also be accessed via this link:

>Transformation Mask Article
(English and French Versions)

>The Magic of Found Objects

>Flea Market Homage

>Exhibition Photography