The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s excellent Steve Litt explains how the Cleveland Museum of Art landed an important collection of 35 Congolese artworks owned by Belgian collectors Rene and Odette Delene:
The acquisition represents a quantum leap for the quality of CMA’s African collection and a major victory for curator Constantine “Costa” Petridis, hired in 2002 as the museum’s first full-time curator of African art.
The acquisition grew out of a friendship developed in the early 1990s when Petridis, then an intern at the Ethnographic Museum of Antwerp in Belgium, approached the Delennes about borrowing some of their Congolese masks for an exhibition.
He kept in touch with the collectors after moving to Cleveland and began discussing the ultimate disposition of the collection with Odette Delenne following her husband’s death in 1998.
Petridis said that Delenne was not interested in donating her collection to Europe’s ethnographic museums, where African art is normally shown, because those museums exhibit cultural artifacts primarily from an anthropological rather than artistic point of view.