Beauty and Purpose: Art That Works

Artistry and aesthetic excellence may infuse even the most ordinary of objects. The Fowler collections include many objects intended for domestic or daily use—ranging from vessels to implements and furniture—which nonetheless reflect a masterful conjoining of form with function.

Even the humblest of objects may be embellished and enhanced in ways that elevate everyday work and imbue it with special significance and value. While many of these may appear to be purely utilitarian, they often served a symbolic purpose far beyond that revealed at first glance. For example, a chair may be used for sitting but may also serve as an emblem of authority. Similarly, a headrest may be used as a pillow, while at the same time facilitating communication with the ancestors through dreams. An object may fulfill several roles at once and have multiple layers of meaning and significance.

Many of the objects in this section are presented in groupings to show how much can be gained by looking at variations within a single genre. In addition to singular, one-of-a-kind works of art, the Fowler collections have many objects in multiples, allowing us to appreciate individual artists’ innovations on particular object types.

  • X65.8514 Chair

    << Back


    Object Name: Chair

    Artist: Unknown

    Culture: Chokwe peoples

    Place of Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Date/Era: 19th century

    Dimensions: H: 64.0 cm, W: 26.5 cm, D: 28.5 cm (H: 25.2 in, W: 10.4 in, D: 11.2 in)

    Medium/Materials: Wood, leather, brass

    Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of the Wellcome Trust.

    Accession Number: X65.8514

    Quick View
  • X83.797 Bowl

    << Back


    Kanuri peoples
    Circa 1970
    L: 11.2 in, D: 11.7 in (L: 4.4 in, D: 4.6 in)
    Gift of Barbara Rubin-Hudson. X83.797

    Quick View
  • X87.181 Flower basket

    << Back


    Flower basket
    Bamboo, plant fiber
    19th-20th century
    W: 24.0 cm, H: 38.0 cm, D: 22.0 cm (W: 9.4 in, H: 14.9 in, D: 8.6 in)
    Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Nancy and Richard Bloch. X87.181

    Quick View
  • X90.488 Jar

    << Back


    Object Name: Jar

    Artist: Unknown

    Culture: Wari

    Place of Origin: Peru

    Date/Era: 600 – 900 C.E.

    Medium/Materials: Ceramic

    Dimensions: H: 21.4 cm, W: 16.6 cm, D: 11.2 cm (H: 8.4 in, W: 6.5 in, D: 4.4 in)

    Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert L. Lucas, Jr.

    Accession Number: X90.488

    Quick View
  • X91.59 Headrest

    « Back to Collections


    Kenya or Uganda
    Pokot, Turkana, or Karamajong peoples
    Leather, beads, wood, string
    19th-early 20th century
    H: 20 cm, W: 11.6 cm, D: 5 cm (H: 7.8 in, W: 4.5 in, D: 1.9 in)
    Fowler Museum at UCLA. The Jerome L. Joss Collection. X91.59

    Quick View
  • X95.38.177 Areca nut cutter (kacip) in the form of a mythical lion (singha)

    << Back


    Object Name: Areca nut cutter (kacip) in the form of a mythical lion (singha)

    Artist: Unknown

    Culture: Balinese peoples

    Place of Origin: Bali, Indonesia

    Date/Era: 19th century

    Medium/Materials: Iron, gold, quartz

    Dimensions: L: 21.2 cm, W: 9.6 cm, H: 3.0 cm (L: 8.3 in, W: 3.7 in, H: 1.1 in)

    Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Samuel Eilenberg.

    Accession Number: X95.38.177

    Quick View