Oceanic art can be studied from a number of angles. This art can be approached from an anthropological or ethnographic aspect and from the perspective of art history or visual culture. This edition features studies of two individual sculptured objects from the Pacific that are approached from different research disciplines. Clémentine Débrosse has undertaken some meticulous research to provide a possible background and usage for the intricately carved Solomon Island coconut known as UEA 964 in the collection of the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Other works of art are so well-known and loved that they acquire nicknames and in Crispin Howarth’s article based on his recent presentation to the OAS in Sydney, we learn of the globe-trotting history and influence of the Lake Sentani sculpture with the nickname ‘the Lily’.
A number of Australian universities have extensive research collections of Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Pacific cultural material. While these very often began as exotic collections of ‘the other’, today we see a very different scholarship and approach to curation and exhibition. The involvement of Aboriginal curatorial staff as well as Yolŋu elders of the ‘home’ community in the preparation of the exhibition Gululu dhuwala djalkiri: welcome to the Yolŋu foundations at the Chau Chak Wing Museum which is also is a key theme of the review of the book Djalkiri-Yolŋu art, collaborations and collections. Making collections approachable is also the goal of the Lawrence Wilson Gallery with the review of the current exhibition of traditional, tourist and contemporary art Creatures: Ochred, Pokered, Carved & Twined.
Art has the power to move us and the tributes paid in this edition to Dr Harry Beran speak of his love for the art of the Massim region and his ability to inspire this love in many of us. Bill Rathmell also reveals his favourite piece from a recent viewing of Bill Evan’s private gallery.
While the pandemic continues to curtail international travel plans for Australians, some sense of normalcy is returning with Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney having an exhibition of Phantom shields in June and also hosting a special launch of Chris Boylan and Jessica Phillip’s book Man Who Cannot Die – Phantom Shields of the New Guinea Highlands on Friday 19 June.