Mary (Polly) Roberts


Department: World Arts & Cultures/Dance
World Arts and Cultures
130B Glorya Kaufman Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1608
Campus Mail Code: 160806
Phone: (310) 206-6211
Fax: (310) 825-7507

Keywords: Africa, Art, Humanities, Cultural anthropology, Art History, Indian Ocean diaspora, African Diaspora, Cultural Studies

Roberts is an art historian (Ph.D. Columbia University, 1991) who studies the philosophical underpinnings of particular African visual and performance-based arts, and the translation of cultural experience into museum exhibitions. She was Senior Curator at the Museum for African Art in New York (1984-94), where her exhibitions and books included Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals (1993); Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art (1994); and with Allen F. Roberts, Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History (1996), which won the College Art Association's Alfred Barr Award for museum scholarship. From 1999 – 2008, she served as Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Her exhibitions and publications produced at the Fowler Museum include: Body Politics: The Female Image in Luba Art and the Sculpture of Alison Saar (2000); A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal (2003), with Allen F. Roberts, which won both the Herskovits Award and the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award; Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art (2007); and Continental Rifts: Contemporary Time-Based Works of Africa (2009).

Dr. Roberts has been a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow and held other grants and awards; has served as President of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association; and is an editor of African Arts journal. In 2007, she was decorated as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Republic of France for her promotion of art and artists of francophone Africa.