Johnnetta Cole, the director of the National Museum of African Art, hosted about 150 guests Tuesday evening for the unveiling of a new exhibit called “Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley.” The exhibit is an examination of the arts produced in the region and “includes some of the most abstract, dramatic and inventive sculpture from sub-Saharan Africa,” according to a release.

An anthropologist by training, Cole said that the exhibit “allows us to say: ‘Yes, Nigeria, of all of the 55 countries of Africa, has an extraordinary history of presenting creativity in almost endless expressions. I hope that we can get people the rethink how they think about African art.”

Cole has led the museum since March 2009. The National Museum of African Art is part of a cluster of art galleries at the Smithsonian.

The largest facility is the joint operation of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, which share a building. The museum has a collection of 9,000 objects, including 500 items obtained from the Walt Disney Co. in 2005.

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