Cambridge Museum buys a painting with bite

  • 22 December 2009

We have helped Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology buy an important work by one of the pre-eminent artists of Papua New Guinea. Biting the Doctor's Arm by Mathias Kauage was acquired for £25,000 with a £9,000 grant from The Art Fund.

Mathias Kauage (c.1944 – 2003) was one of the founding figures of modern art in the Pacific, and remains to date the most internationally celebrated Papua New Guinean artist to have worked in modern media.

The boldly coloured painting shows the artist’s own resistance to an injection while at primary school. It also acts as a metaphor for the artist’s concerns over national independence and problems arising from postcolonial sovereignty and freedom.

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said: "This striking work is a fine example of Papua New Guinean painting, and I am very pleased that with our help, the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is able to build upon their growing collection of Papua New Guinean artists. Biting the Doctor’s Arm is a lively addition which I am sure will help engage audiences with the extraordinary artistic career of Mathias Kauage."

Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is committed to collaborating with contemporary communities and artists linked with its historic collections. With Art Fund support, it has strengthened what had been a limited acquisition programme, purchasing work by Pacific artists such as John Ioane’s 5,000 Year Old Whisper and Fa’a fefine: in the manner of a woman 1-3 by Shigeyuki Kihara.

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology intends to tour Biting the Doctor’s Arm to other UK venues from 2010 onward.

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