Royal Academy of Arts
29 September - 10 December 2018
Marking 250 years since Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific, we celebrate the dazzling and diverse art of the region of Oceania, from the historic to the contemporary.
The year is 1768, and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.
The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition reveals these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.
Oceania brings together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and spans over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change.
Oceania has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.
The Grand Opening of “Oceania” took place on 25th September 2018 and it was attended by HRH Duchess of Sussex, Meghan and New Zealand Steinway Artist Jason Bae performed on Michael Parekowhai’s “He Kōrero Pūrākau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of New Zealand River” (2011) - Steinway Model D on this very special occasion.