Driving Desires: How Gold Shaped the World: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Driving Desires: How Gold Shaped the World

Gold Biconical bead, Egypt or Syria, 10th -11th century
Biconical bead, Egypt or Syria, 10th -11th century Gold; filigree, granulation, "rope" wire L. 7.2 cm, H. 2.9 cm, The Aga Khan Museum, AKM618.
6 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu May 9, 2019
6 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Gold is one of the rarest and most malleable minerals, qualities that have contributed to its enduring value across time and place. Gold has been shaped by artists; its extraction has altered landscapes and its discovery has raised nations. The allure of gold is entwined with culture and economies, politics and religion, power and value. Join The Block’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs Kathleen Bickford Berzock in a conversation with NYU’s Robyn d’Avignon and Northwestern faculty Rebecca Zorach and Marc Walton—specialists from anthropology, art history, and material science—as they excavate the story of gold’s timeless power. This program is offered in conjunction with the exhibition Caravans of Gold, which explores how gold from West Africa fueled a global economy and propelled the movement of things, people, and ideas across the Sahara Desert to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

Presented by The Block Museum in partnership with the Department of Art History and the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts.

Robyn d’Avignon is Assistant Professor of African History at New York University. An anthropologist and historian by training, Robyn studies scientific research, state formation, and struggles over natural resources in Senegal, Guinea, and Mali. Robyn’s first book manuscript, Shadow Geology, examines the pre-colonial and colonial roots of conflicts over mineral discovery and subterranean property rights in the context of an unfolding gold mining boom in savannah West Africa. She teaches courses on African history for all time periods, humanitarianism, decolonization, nature and technology, and wealth and economies in African worlds. For the 2018-2019 academic year she is a fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University. 

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at block-museum@northwestern.edu