African Art and Silicon Chips: A Life in Science and Art - Jay Last

African Art and Silicon Chips: A Life in Science and Art is Jay T. Last’s insightful and illuminating memoir of over four decades spent collecting African art. It is a must-read for collectors, dealers, scholars, students, and aficionados of the continent’s rich and varied artistic genres. Those who contributed to the growth of a market for African art will find themselves chronicled in the chapters of this book, which highlights major milestones and trends—decade-by-decade—beginning in the 1950s and continuing to the present. Last focuses his narrative on the men and women, who like himself, formed a lifelong passion for collecting the arts of Africa and who have given the enterprise its distinctive character and energy. He details his firsthand relationships with a veritable “who’s who” of dealers and collectors in the United States and Europe and describes how these personal connections led to the many purchases that shaped his own extraordinary and idiosyncratic collection. Beginning with the acquisition of a Kuba cup in 1961 from the Ladislas Segy Gallery in New York, Last’s adventure in collecting continued, with the 1960s and 1970s constituting the most fertile period. This highly readable text details stories of luck, serendipity, prescience, and tenacity in the focused search for objects that met Last’s clearly defined aesthetic preferences and addressed his fascination with the serial image.


As the title of this autobiography suggests, the intersection of Jay Last’s engagement with science and art offers insights into the man behind the collection. The highly inventive and entrepreneurial spirit that brought him such success in the fledgling tech industry in Northern California starting in the 1950s was matched by an appetite for intrepid excursions to remote locations across Africa and by his predilection for simple abstract forms, often featuring tough geometries, that attracted few others in the years of his most intense collecting. Beautiful full-page color images of more than a hundred key works from the Last collection, largely photographed by Scott McCue, are interspersed throughout and object close-ups help to demonstrate the collector’s eye. Numerous snapshots document highlights of the author’s travels (often with his wife, Deborah) and put faces to many of the individuals who were and still are key to the history of the collecting, affirming, and understanding of the vibrant arts of Africa.(Now available on Amazon.com)

Marla C. Berns
Fowler Museum at UCLA
December 2015