Abelam Birds

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Abelam Birds

Papua New Guinea

Apotropaic figures

Carved wood with natural pigments
Early 20th century
Height: 29 ¼ in. (74 cm)

Published: Rites et formes de Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée, 2009, p. 73
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Abelam Bird

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Abelam Bird

Papua New Guinea

Apotropaic figure

Carved wood and pigments
20th century
Height: 28 ¼ in. (72 cm)

Ex private collection, Paris

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Boiken Currencies

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Boiken Currencies

Papua New Guinea

Talipun bride price payment

Plaited face, shell, pigments and feathers
First part of the 20th century
Height: 16 ½ in. and 23 ½ in. (42 cm et 60 cm)

Field-collected by Michael Kremerskothen, Dortmund

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Imunu Figure

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Imunu Figure

Papua New Guinea

Kerewa, Papuan Gulf

Carved wood and pigments
20th century
Height: 26 ¾ in. (68 cm)

Ex collection René & Odette Delenne (Galerie Antilope), Brussels
Ex collection Alex Arthur, Brussels

Published: Rites et formes de Papouasie Nouvelle-Guinée, 2009, p. 98
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Pigment Dish

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Pigment Dish

Papua New Guinea

Anthropomorphic pigment dish
Lower Sepik

Carved wood and pigments
Early 20th century
Height: 4 ¾ in. (12 cm)

Ex private collection, Australia,
reportedly acquired from Elizabeth Pryce, Sydney
Ex collection Pierre Mondoloni, France

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Female Figure

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Female Figure

Papua New Guinea

Rauit Village, South of Torricelli Mountains
West Sepik

Carved wood and natural pigments
Early 20th century
Height : 32 ¼ in. (82 cm)

Field-collected by Michael Hamson, Rauit Village, 1999
Ex collection John & Marcia Friede
Ex private collection, Sydney

Illustrated: “Carved and painted works of the Torricellis” Barry Craig, fig. 6 p. 9, Pacific Arts, 2012

Published: Sepik: Hooks, Figures & Masks, 2018
We know of only a very limited number of works coming from the region of the Torricelli Mountains to the north-east of the Sepik.
Barry Craig from the South Australian Museum, in his benchmark study of the sculptures of the region (Pacific Arts, The Journal of the PAA, vol. 12, 2012), was able to list a total of only eight female figures known at present, including the one shown here.
Representing a spirit named Wilbae, this sculpture served in ceremonies linked to healing, fertility of the land and plentiful food. Among their functions, these female spirit figures also insured the success of hunting expeditions and warfare.
Of a remarkable poetry and expressivity, this carved figure brings to mind the figures of such artists as Chaissac or Dubuffet.

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Brag Mask

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Brag Mask

Papua New Guinea

Keram area, Lower Sepik

Carved wood, pigments
Late 19th – Early 20th century
Height: 15 in. (38 cm)

Ex collection Todd Barlin, Sydney, Australia

Masks were omnipresent in the art and culture of the Lower Sepik region. Of extremely variable sizes (from a few centimeters to more than a meter high), they offer a seemingly unlimited range of shapes and colors.
Generally known by the term brag or brag sebug, they represented powerful spirits. As indicated by Sir Michael Somare (“Sana“, 1975, p. 29), “brag spirits gave a man power to fight, power to make peace, power to change people's minds, and power to attract women. They would weaken one's enemy, confuse his mind and make him vulnerable.“
The mask shown opposite, from the Keram area, offers a startling contrast between its angular lines and its wavy, glowing, polychromatic motifs. The painted decoration of the mask –brimming with dynamism and full of mysterious symbols – recalls the work of Jackson Pollock.

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Garra Hook

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Garra Hook

Papua New Guinea

Bahinemo People
Hunstein Range, Upper Sepik

Carved wood and pigments
20th century
Height: 39 ¾ in. (101 cm)

Ex collection Michael Hamson, USA

Published: Sepik: Hooks, Figures & Masks, 2018
In the region of the Hunstein Mountains, upriver on the Sepik River and west of the Korewori, the garra hooks featuring water spirits were used during initiations by the Bahinemo populations. These sculptures are distinguished by their minimalism and their extreme stylization of form.
In the late 1930s, the British sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986) seemed irresistibly attracted by sharply pointed, hooked shapes, as illustrated by his preparatory drawings from the period.
In the reference book, “Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” (MoMA New York, 1984, p. 607), Alan Wilkinson noted the marked interest of the artist for Oceanic sculpture. In a text from 1941, Henry Moore himself evoked “New Guinea carvings, with drawn out spider-like extensions and bird-beak elongations…“.
His sculpture Three Points from 1939-1940 (illustrated above) calls to mind intriguing echoes of garra figures.

Documentation

Photograph of the sculpture by Henry Moore:
Three Points 1939-40, cast before 1949; Henry Moore OM,
CH 1898-1986, Tate, London
© Tate, London 2018
© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved,
DACS / www.henry-moore.org

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Hook Figure

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Hook Figure

Papua New Guinea

Sepik River

Carved wood and pigments, fiber
Early 20th century
Height: 28 in. (71 cm)

Ex collection Maurice Bonnefoy / d’Arcy Galleries, New York, 1960s-1970s
Exhibited: Neuchâtel Museum of Ethnography,
Switzerland, June 27- December 31, 1970
Ex Ader Picard Tajan action sale, Paris, Dec. 18 1990, lot 11
Ex Christie’s Paris, Décembre 2003, lot 54
Ex private collection Paris, acquired at the above sale

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Female
Spirit Figure

oceania | Papua New Guinea

Female
Spirit Figure

Papua New Guinea

Inyai-Ewa People
Korewori, Middle Sepik

Carved wood and pigments
19th century or earlier
Height: 37 ¾ in. (96 cm)

Ex collection Loed Van Bussel, Amsterdam
Ex collection Adrian Schlag

Published: Sepik: Hooks, Figures & Masks, 2018
This sculpture presents the classical characteristics of female spirit figures in the ancient art of the Ewa region (upper part of the Korewori River). As indicated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, these figures are often described as the representation of two primordial sisters who had fashioned the world and, according to oral tradition, were at the origin of the creation of the valleys where the Inyai-Ewa lived and hunted. These sisters are also assimilated to the female founders of the clan.
Spirit figures were kept in the sacred part of the Men’s House (ceremonial house), or in shelters under overhanging rock cliffs or caves serving as palaces for religious or commemorative rituals.
Female representations are extremely rare: they are greatly less frequent than their male pendants, aripa figures represented in profile and standing on only one foot.

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