Fourth floor, Nancy Brown Negley West Tower
The Museum's collection of Oceanic Art comprises the visual arts traditions of numerous cultures scattered throughout the vast expanse of the Middle and South Pacific. The sculptural art of Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia are particularly well represented at the Museum. Most of these objects were acquired by Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., the noted collector of Greek and Roman art. Aboriginal Australian, native Hawaiian and Maori objects are also included in the Oceanic Collection.
The abstract designs appearing on the many of the works of art from this region are encoded with metaphysical content and may denote complex narratives related to tribal mythology. The true meaning of the images is often limited to members of a specific religious group, elders and the initiated. When viewed outside of the traditional context, Oceanic art conveys a surprisingly modern or contemporary aesthetic. The Basketry Figure of a Wild Pig (above) from the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea is a favorite with visitors of all ages.
Papua New Guinea, Gulf of Papua, Era River area, early 20th century
Polynesia, Marquesas Islands, probably 19th century
Basketry Figure of a Wild Pig
New Guinea, Sepik River region, early 20th century
Teket (Orator's Pulpit)
New Guinea, Middle Sepik River region, early 20th century