From X to Why: A Museum Takes Shape focuses on the Fowler Museum’s formative history through its earliest acquisitions. The title evokes the Fowler’s practice of assigning each newly acquired object a number, prefaced by an “X.” This “X” marks the transition of the object from its previous context to its new life and roles within the museum. The works on view reveal the strength and breadth of the collections and foreshadow the Fowler’s role as one of the premier museums for preserving and exhibiting works of art from cultures around the world. The installation begins with the very first object to enter the collection, a magnificent Balinese ceremonial textile, and continues with thirty-five objects including African sculpture, American Indian pottery and basketry, Latin American ceremonial dress, Peruvian vessels, Indonesian puppets, and European Carnival masks.
This exhibition was curated by: Peter L. Haffner, Elyan Jeanine Hill, Dana L. Marterella, Elaine E. Sullivan, Tommy Tran, and Rita M. Rufino Valente—graduate students in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance—with faculty mentor Professor Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts.