© Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
In 2018 an exhibition entitled Oceania was held at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first Pacific voyage of Captain James Cook. This exhibition was organised in conjunction with the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. Those who missed seeing this exhibition last year now have another opportunity as it will be opening again – this time in Paris – from 12 March until 7 July 2019.
The museum’s website describes this exhibition as a ” journey across the Pacific to discover the island cultures and peoples of Oceania. From New-Guinea to Easter Island, from Hawaii to New Zealand, nearly 200 works provide an overview of the art of a continent, passing on both traditions and contemporary challenges.”
© Lisa Reihana
The lengthy article by Maia Jessop Nuku, Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, examines the three key themes of the exhibition:- Voyaging, Making Place, and Encounter. She explains how the exhibition “presents the region’s distinctive landscape as a vital and deeply interconnected highway that links Pacific peoples together in a network of dynamic exchange and encounter.”
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Another strong article is entitled The art of Oceania: seven stories, in which several curators and scholars look at selected pieces in more detail. These include the sculpture of a Polynesian god which was admired by Picasso and Moore, the god image made from feathers presented to Captain James Cook (see above), and a stunning necklace from Fiji, carved from sperm whale ivory, which conveyed status. These various articles and videos provide a wonderful insight and are great preparation for viewing the exhibition in Paris.
Still on show at the Museum du quai Branly until 7 April is their exhibition on Japanese basketry – so if you time it right you can visit both at once. This exhibition is entitled Fendre l’air – Art du bambou au Japan (Split the Air) and looks at how the art of bamboo basketry became sculpture. There is an excellent video of the exhibition by Paris Match, in French but with English subtitles. The exhibition traces the development of basketry in a chronological order and examines the influence the tea ceremony had on these baskets. Several beautiful vases by the acknowledged master Rokansai are featured.
photo by Tadayuki Minamoto, © musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
Lisa Chapman has written a beautifully illustrated article on the exhibition for TL mag (True Living Art of Design) entitled The Woven History of Japanese Basketry. She explains that although bamboo basket-making in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries was linked to the tea ceremony, artists eventually moved on from that and “contemporary weavers also reveal the potential of the material and their creativity in works that depart from their functional uses and become pieces of sculpture.”
© Seattle Art Museum
Coincidentally the Seattle Art Museum are also celebrating Japanese basketry this Saturday 9 March 2019 with a lecture entitled The Japanese Basket 1845-1958. The presenter, Joe Earle, was formerly the Director of the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Full details here.
Finally an exhibition of anting-anting from the Philippines will be opening in the central mezzanine of the Museum du quai Branly on the 12 March. This runs until the 26 May 2019 and showcases these talismans, worn by many people who believe they have special powers such as the ability to stop bullets.
Anyone for Paris?