The Fowler Museum’s collections today include more than 4,500 masks, figural sculptures, shields, architectural elements, ritual objects, and other items from the island of New Guinea in the South Pacific. Three quarters of these were acquired via private donations in the short period from 1963 to 1969, and most came originally from the Sepik River region (now part of the nation of Papua New Guinea). What factors, both here and in distant New Guinea, conspired to drive this surge of so-called “primitive” art to Southern California? This exhibition showcases, for the first time since 1967, more than fifty of the finest examples of Sepik art to arrive on our shores in such short order. It also explores how this massive migration changed both the art itself and the ways we think about it.
This exhibition was curated by Roy W. Hamilton, Senior Curator of Asian and Pacific Collections, Fowler Museum at UCLA, with Michael Hamson.