In this edition of the OAS Journal we read the story of George William Mostyn, the third in Barry Craig’s series of short biographies on early collectors for the South Australian Museum. We really must applaud Barry for this magnificent contribution to our knowledge of how so many of the important artefacts in our public institutions came to be where they are. And we must also congratulate Barry, and his co-authors, Ron Vanderwal and Christine Winter on their magnificent book, War Trophies or Curios? The War Museum collection in Museum Victoria 1915-1920, which was recently launched to much fanfare in Melbourne (we will bring a full review of this book in the next edition of the Journal).
Not only do these works greatly enhance our appreciation of the objects themselves, they also show the historical linkages between Australia’s evolution and that of the Pacific nations, and how our understanding of artefacts from these nations has evolved. While they were certainly seen as curios a hundred years ago, they are now seen as significant works of art and important examples of material culture. This has been a slow, but still radical, transformation in thought. Objects that were once used to emphasis the perceived backwardness of indigenous societies are now celebrated as windows into the complexity and beauty of diverse and idiosyncratic cultures. Scholars such as Barry Craig, his fellow authors and the many academics, researchers and writers working in this field have greatly expanded our collective knowledge and understanding of Oceanic art. Many have graced the pages of this Journal and we are grateful to them all. So let me express our collective Thanks!
This edition of the Journal also covers diverse exhibitions in New York and Paris, two shows that tackle cultural material from very different perspectives. Crispin Howarth’s review of Matahoata- the Art Of the Marquesas Islands, at the Quai Branly, concentrates on pre-contact pieces that come from a period where outside influence was negligible (although he does look at contemporary variants), while Miriam Grundy’s review of Frontier Shores at the Bard Graduate Centre Gallery in Manhattan shows how cultures changed with European contact. Objects that may seem mundane, like a Victorian woman’s bonnet, become extraordinary when the many elements they contain are unpacked. In this vein is Harry Beran’s review of Postcards From Oceania, which again documents, at least inadvertently, the clash of cultures as Europeans turned up throughout the Pacific and took control through the colonial period We would like to remind members that the annual OAS Tribal Art Fair will be held on July 23 at the St. Mathias Church Hall, on Oxford Street, Paddington. Once again this provides both buyers and sellers an opportunity to trade, as well as a chance to view a wide range of objects in a convivial setting. Finally we must thank in advance Mark Blackburn for agreeing to give the next OAS lecture on Wednesday, July 20 at theAustralian Museum. Mark is one of the world’s most dedicated collectors of this genre and his talk on Understanding Polynesia Art will be from both the heart and the head; not to be missed by those who can make it.