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Carved and painted wooden head, Southern Nigeria, Height 38 cm. Collected by Northcote W. Thomas, 1910, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Z 25889

Artist: Unknown, Art and Artefacts from the University of Cambridge Museums and Collections

9 July – 22 September 2019

From the ancient to the contemporary – whether in a museum, book or auction house – the way we engage with art has revolved around the cult of the individual. But what happens when we don’t know who made something?


This event has passed. Free, come along

Artist: Unknown took this question as its focus. It brought together for the first time an extraordinary selection of anonymous art and artefacts from the University of Cambridge’s renowned museums and collections.

With objects spanning centuries and continents, the exhibition wove together often hidden histories of artistic production, collection, marginalisation and colonialism, and explored why these makers’ identities were unrecorded or lost to history. From a mysterious seventeenth-century self-portrait to modern Inuit stone carvings, intricately embroidered samplers and elaborate forgeries of scientific instruments, each object bore witness to the creativity and skill of its unknown maker and invited viewers to question the importance we place on authorship, and to rethink who we define as an ‘artist’.

Listen to the podcast series that accompanies Artist: Unknown. In collaboration with the University of Cambridge Museums, it brings together works of art from across the University’s collections from July to September 2019.

Logo for University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden