Director, UCLA Fowler Musuem
Department: Fowler Museum at UCLA
UCLA Fowler Musuem
308 Charles E. Young Drive North
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1549
Campus mailcode: 154906
Tel: (310) 825-4361
Fax: (310) 206-7007
Keywords: Africa, Art, Art History, Humanities, UCLA
Marla C. Berns is director of the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, where she began her career in the arts as an African arts graduate intern in 1978. She received her Ph.D. in art history at UCLA in 1986, specializing in African art. Her research and writing have concentrated on women’s arts in Northeastern Nigeria — which include ceramics, decorated gourds and programs of body scarification — and on the historical and ritual importance of figurative ceramic vessels. Throughout her career, she has been the curator of exhibitions on topics as wide-ranging as women’s inventions, 1930s fashion, the history of underwear, Japanese prints, 20th-century design and her specialty, African art.
Before coming to UCLA in 2001, Berns served as director of the UAM and adjunct associate professor of art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UAM Berns oversaw an exhibition program distinguished by its global diversity — with geographical focuses on Asia and Africa — and its emphasis on contemporary art practices. There, Berns was also the curator of two nationally touring exhibitions, “Dear Robert, I’ll See You at the Crossroads: A Project by Renee Stout” and “Ceramic Gestures: New Vessels by Magdalene Odundo.” She has recently finished a retrospective exhibition and monograph on Santa Barbara designer Paul Tuttle, who is internationally known for his furniture and architectural designs. Before her tenure at Santa Barbara in 1991, she was director of The Goldstein, a museum of design at the University of Minnesota.
Berns has been involved in many exhibitions on wide range of topics, including a number devoted to her specialty, African art. She was recently co-curator of a major exhibition on the arts of the Benue River Valley, Nigeria, produced in association with the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. The scholarly publication accompanying the exhibition is being edited jointly with Richard Fardon and Sidney Kasfir. Berns is on the editorial board of the journal African Arts and is on the Board of Governors of UCHRI.