Marking 250 years since Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific, this exhibition celebrates the dazzling and diverse art of the region of Oceania.
The exhibition takes as its starting point two major historical events that occurred in the year of 1768: the founding of the Academy itself by 36 artists who successfully petitioned King George III, and the launch of Captain James Cook’s voyage in search of the unknown continent ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ – a landmass believed to exist in the southern hemisphere.
Cook discovered a prodigious number of island civilisations, which we now know to cover almost one third of the world’s surface – each with an indigenous population that had singular histories, trade patterns and social and artistic traditions. Celebrating the diverse and powerful creative output from the area, which at the time resonated across the European art scene, Oceania also reflects the scale of the region, featuring over 250 works originating from New Guinea, Easter Island, Hawaii, New Zealand and further afield.
Including shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, huge canoes and whole house facades, the pieces date from the ancient past to contemporary work, including that of award-winning artist, Lisa Reihana, who lives and works in New Zealand and is of Maori and British descent. Oceania is the first major survey in the UK of art from the region, and draws on rich ethnographic collections from the 18th century to the present.