Being agile and pivoting are words long associated with innovation and the tech world. However, they are now commonly being used in the art world to describe the quick responses and changes to long held practices being applied by museums, galleries, dealers and auction houses to the current global pandemic – and can also be applied to the Oceanic Art Society.
With Greater Sydney in lockdown, the Sydney Oceanic Art Fair has been moved to Saturday 6 November with the agreement of the National Art School and a date is being finalised for the Annual General Meeting and lecture in late November. Following the success of the May OAS Lecture being made available to members globally as a live stream, the Society is launching OAS NOW! and is seeking both local and global collectors, dealers and curators prepared to present one or more items in a secure live stream lecture. In addition, for the next planned Lecture, Harold Gallasch will either present live in Sydney at the National Art School on the planned date, 13 October, or as a live stream if dictated by the public health orders.
Traditional cultural practices can change either as a slow evolution or an agile response to external forces. David Payne’s detailed hand drawings and documentation of Massim canoes of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay province shows how the culture is expressed through a colourful and sophisticated artistic style that suffuses the boatbuilding tradition. The boats on the islands and bays of this area are like art. While we are lucky that these boats are still being built, these traditions can be quite fragile with the indigenous craft of areas of North America now lost.
One of the last events before the current Greater Sydney lockdown was an in-person launch for the Man Who Cannot Die – The Phantom Shields of Papua New Guinea book co-published by Chris Boylan. Chris’ talk from the launch focuses on the agile artistic response by the local warriors of the Waghi valley, now known as the Jiwaka Province in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands, to the arrival of a comic strip character, The Phantom, in a local tok pisin publication. This talk also highlights how the long established tradition of war shields is upended with changing of materials used in these shields due to the emerging availability of firearms in the region.