June 28–September 27, 2015

About the Exhibition

[above] Map design based on cartography by Michael Page and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, Atlanta

[right] Unidentified artist; Mask for the Do Society, probably 19th century; Ligbi; wood, paint, palm oil, and henna; 11 7/8 x 6 x 3 7/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by Howard F. Baer in honor of his wife, Isabel A. Baer 140:1972

[below] Unidentified artist; Ring with Buffalo Head; bronze alloy; 3 ½ x 2 5/8 inches; Collection of Brian and Diane Leyden

About the Exhibition

The first major exhibition of West African art at the Saint Louis Art Museum in more than 15 years, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa is a stunning collection of masks, figures, and other objects from three countries in West Africa that reveals the amazing diversity of art that scholars and collectors typically label as Senufo.

Some of the most beloved artistic creations of sub-Saharan Africa, masks, figures, and decorative art labeled as Senufo have been the subject of numerous studies by African, North American, and European scholars since the 1930s. The interest in sculpture identified as Senufo was largely stimulated by its discovery by the artistic avant-garde in the early 20th century. Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger were among those to find inspiration in the oeuvre of their West African counterparts. Through a stunning selection of objects in diverse styles and mediums, the exhibition introduces visitors to the poro and sandogo societies, the primary settings for the production and use of works of art in the Senufo-speaking region of northern Côte d'Ivoire. However, drawing on recent research in Mali and Burkina Faso, the exhibition also includes sculptures not usually attributed to Senufo-speaking artists or patrons, thus shattering the boundaries of the corpus typically identified as Senufo.

Featuring nearly 170 loans from museums and private collections in Europe, Canada, and the United States, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa examines the shifting meanings of the term Senufo since the late nineteenth century and investigates assumptions underlying the labeling of art as Senufo.

Revealing the shortcomings of labels tied to limited cultural or ethnic groups, the exhibition encourages a closer look at individual objects and their particular histories.

[right] Unidentified artist; Male and female figure pair; wood; h. 45 ¼ inches and 38 3/16 inches; Private collection (courtesy McClain Gallery, Houston); Image © Sotheby’s


Members see it free!

  • $12 for adults
  • $10 for seniors and students
  • $6 for children ages 6 to 12
  • Children ages 5 and under are free
  • Free on Fridays

Advance tickets are recommended, especially on Fridays when tickets are free. Tickets are available in person at the Museum’s Information Centers, online through MetroTix, or by phone at 314.534.1111. Tickets purchased or reserved through MetroTix incur a service charge; the service charge is waived for tickets reserved at the Museum. Advance tickets for Fridays are limited to 6 tickets per person. All tickets, including tickets for free Fridays, are issued for a specific date and time.

The last entry to Senufo is one hour before the Museum closes.

Unidentified artist; Face Mask; wood, brass tacks; 14 3/16 x 6 3/4 x 4 1/8 inches; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, gift of Walt Disney World Co., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, 2005-6-50; Photograph: Franko Khoury © National Museum of African Art

Unidentified artist; Caryatid Vessel; wood; 11 11/16 inches; Private collection; Photograph Studio R. Asselberghs–Frédéric Dehaen, Brussels

Plan Your Visit

Unidentified artist; Male Equestrian Figure; wood, cowrie shells and cotton string; 14 x 3 ¾ x 7 7/8 inches; Yale University Art Gallery, Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection 2006.51.179


Tuesday – Friday, 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
Beginning July 21, docents will be stationed throughout the Senufo exhibition galleries Tuesday through Friday to provide additional information about the works of art and answer questions.


Free docent-led tours of Senufo are available Tuesday through Thursday, and Saturday and Sunday. Docent tours are not available on Fridays. Tours depart from the East Building Information Center in the East Building near the exhibition entrance and last approximately 90 minutes.


Guided tours for 10 or more participants must be scheduled online. Group tours for Senufo are not available on Fridays.


Located in the heart of Forest Park, the Saint Louis Art Museum is easy to reach by car, bus, or Metro; and drivers will find both underground parking at the Museum and free parking nearby. If you haven't visited in a while, you may want to brush up on the gallery maps for the expanded Museum. The Art Museum welcomes all visitors and strives to make its building and programs accessible to everyone. Photography is not allowed in Senufo, but you may take non-flash, non-commercial photos in our permanent collection galleries.

The last entry to the Senufo exhibition is always one hour before the Museum closes.


Explore exclusive content using the Senufo multimedia tour. Enjoy insightful commentary, high-resolution images, and stories about artists and patrons as you tour through the exhibition. You’ll discover the most comprehensive selection of stunning masks, figures, and decorative art by Senufo-speaking artists presented in the United States in the last 50 years.

Multimedia tours are available on a limited number of Museum iPads and are included with your paid admission. ($5 on Free Fridays)


Drawing on archival, museum, and field based data, the exhibition catalogue Senufo Unbound explores historical foundations for the term Senufo and its use to label art from western Burkina Faso, northern Côte d’Ivoire, and southern Mali. Richly illustrated, the book is catalog to Senufo: Art and Identity in Western Africa. This full-color book is available in the Museum Shops.


Enjoy an elegant and approachable dining experience prepared by Ivy Magruder, Panorama’s executive chef and general manager. You’ll also enjoy sweeping views of Forest Park through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Art Hill. Panorama is located in the East Building, just steps away from the Senufo exhibition.
For reservations, call 314.655.5490.
Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 am–2:00 pm
Friday, 11:00 am–2:00 pm and 5:00 pm–9:00 pm
Saturday Brunch, 10:00 am–3:00 pm
Sunday Brunch, 10:00 am–3:00 pm

Light meals, snacks, and beverages
Main Building, Level 1
Tuesday–Thursday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm
Friday, 10:00 am–8:00 pm
Saturday–Sunday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm


Unidentified artist; Bird Figure; wood; 59 5/8 x 23 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches; Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.176); Photograph: Art Resource, New York © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Special Benefits for Members Only


Museum Members enjoy free admission to Senufo, as well as invitations to special events and valuable discounts on dining, shopping, and parking. Join today to enjoy the many wonderful benefits of membership.


Be among the first to see the exhibition during two preview days exclusively for Members, with live music, hands-on activities, and a special Members-only lecture by one of the exhibition's organizing curators.

Friday, June 26, 10:00 am–8:00 pm
Saturday, June 27, 10:00 am–4:00 pm
Main Exhibition Galleries; East Building
Learn more


Museum Members receive free timed tickets to the exhibition on every visit. Your membership level determines the number of tickets you may receive. Advance tickets for the exhibition and select Member programs are recommended for best availability.

Advance tickets are available in person at the Information Centers or through MetroTix. When ordering through MetroTix, Members must present a promo code to receive free tickets. To retrieve your promo code, call the Membership Office at 314.655.5335 or click here. All MetroTix orders, including Member tickets, incur a $3 per ticket fee.

Events & Classes


Friday, June 26, 11:00 am
The Farrell Auditorium. Free*.

Opening Lecture
Enjoy a free lecture about the exhibition from one of its organizers, Constantine Petridis, curator of African art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Thursday, September 17, 6:30 pm
The Farrell Auditorium. Free*.

Beyond the Picture Frame: A Refreshed Look at Arts Identified as Senufo
Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi, assistant professor at Emory University and curatorial advisor of Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa. This lecture will explore the historical foundations for the term Senufo and its use to label art from western Burkina Faso, northern Côte d'Ivoire, and southern Mali. The author’s book will be available for purchase prior to the lecture; a book signing will follow.
Mapping Senufo Digital Initiative

Adult Class

Saturdays, September 12, 26, October 10, 24
(occurs every two weeks) 10:30 am-noon
Cost: $50.00, free to students. Email the Pulitzer Arts Foundation at programs@pulitzerarts.org to register.
Limited to 20 participants.

Case Studies in African Art
This multi-week class draws on current exhibitions of African art in St. Louis, Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa at the Saint Louis Art Museum and Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art at Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Participants will learn how to look at African art through multiple lenses including visual, art historical, cultural, and technological. Classes will take place at both the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and will be taught by curators from both institutions as well as guest scholars. Learn more: http://pulitzerarts.org/program/case-studies-african-art

Family Programs

Sundays in September, 1:00–4:00 pm. Grigg Gallery. Free.
Artful Africa
Explore the continent of Africa and its artistic traditions in September. Tour the galleries to see sculptures, masks, and textiles made in Africa and make a work of art inspired by what you find.

Sunday, September 6, 2:00 pm. The Farrell Auditorium. Free*.
Special Family Performance
Afriky Lolo—West African Dance and Drumming

Youth Classes

Saturday, September 5, 10:30 am–1:30 pm

Class for Ages 6–8: Marvelous Masks
$45 ($35 Museum Members)
Take a tour through the Museum’s special exhibition Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa and create your own collection of masks using a fun mix of art materials. For more information, visit slam.org/education.

Class for Ages 9-12: Beautiful Batik
$45 ($35 Museum Members)
Get inspired by African art! Tour the galleries to learn about pattern and symbols, and then make a fantastic batik fabric. For more information, visit slam.org/education.

*All events in The Farrell Auditorium, including free events, are ticketed.
Tickets to the exhibition and related programs may be purchased or reserved in person at the Museum’s Information Centers or through MetroTix at metrotix.com or 314.534.1111. All tickets purchased or reserved through MetroTix incur a service charge; the service charge is waived for tickets purchased or reserved at the Museum.

Gallery Talks

All Gallery Talks are free and begin in Sculpture Hall. No tickets are required.

The African Art Influence in Modern Art
Thursday, July 16, 11:00 am
Friday, July 17, 6:00 pm

Women and West African Art
Thursday, July 23, 11:00 am
Friday, July 24, 6:00 pm

Senufo and Beyond in the Permanent Collection
Thursday, August 20, 11:00 am
Friday, August 21, 6:00 pm

More to Explore at the Museum

Adorning Self and Space: West African Textiles highlights blankets, garments, and cloths that demonstrate a captivating array of design and pattern. They were created to comfort and protect, and to proclaim identity, status, and style.

Although created by artists of several cultures from Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, many of the textiles on view share a formal structure of strip-woven cloth that is the basis for myriad design variations. Other cloths in the exhibition merge foreign, industrially produced fabric with inventive techniques for dyeing and decorating that result in kaleidoscopic effects.

On view in Gallery 100, this free exhibition is open through September 7.
This exhibition has been organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts. Education Programs supported by The Dana Brown Charitable Trust, U.S. Bank, Trustee. Financial support has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.