Oceania exhibition opens to acclaim in London
2 Oct 2018
The massive and long-awaited Oceania exhibition showcasing the art and culture of Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Aotearoa New Zealand has opened in London with a royal milestone and 5-star reviews.
The Royal Academy of Arts’ Oceania includes around 200 works, spanning more than 500 years. It marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy, which was founded in 1768 – the same year Captain James Cook set sail on his first Pacific expedition on the Endeavour.
With support from Creative New Zealand, 10 contemporary visual artists from Aotearoa had their work included in the exhibition. “The opportunity to see the contemporary works alongside the ancestral taonga in the exhibition was a truly unique experience,” said Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan.
The opening of Oceania was also the occasion for the Duchess of Sussex’s (Meghan Markle) first solo outing as a member of the Royal Family. “There’s no doubt the Duchess’s visit greatly raised the profile of the exhibition. My hope now is that many, many people go through so they have more awareness and understanding of our region,” said Mr Moynahan.
“Oceania is also an incredibly valuable collaboration between a number of organisations and government agencies. It is a complex project, but its ambition and scale serve as an example of what can be achieved when we work together.”
Speaking at the opening of Oceania, Associate Minister for the Arts, Culture and Heritage Carmel Sepuloni said the exhibition was an opportunity to build dialogue. “By sharing our knowledge, history and context the pathway is paved for a better international understanding of who we are and our place in the world.
“We need this to occur if we are going to grow the global duty of care to our Pacific region in relation to the challenges we all face. Challenges that have profound implications…in particular, the pollution of our oceans and climate change.”
Reviews from United Kingdom media
- The Guardian: feel the ocean roll under your canoe, hear sea birds and see dorsal fins
Oceania review – marvels of the human mind that were ripped off by modernists
- The Telegraph: ambitious, astonishing exhibition
Oceania Royal Academy review – astonishing blast of a show
- Evening Standard (London): this exhibition is a depiction of a different way of thinking, a mindset
Oceania review – Royal Academy compels a generation of new voyagers at this riveting exhibition
- Financial Times (UK):”…this is a living and constantly evolving culture…inextricably linked with the moana, the ocean and waters surrounding and sustaining these island communities
The complex, spectacular legacy of Oceanic art
- Timeout (London): The point is that everything you see here has a complicated, layered history: it has its origins, its collection, its voyage and its current home.
- BBC News: Meghan Markle goes for her first solo visit
New Zealand media coverage
- New Zealand Herald: Major Oceania exhibition opens in London (video of procession and opening ceremony)
- New Zealand Herald: Oceania's royal visit guaranteed to focus attention
- Stuff: Meghan Markle responsive to concerns raised by Kiwi artists about health of oceans and waterways
- Radio NZ: Opening and interview with the exhibition’s co-curator Adrian Locke
- TV One: Meghan Markle opens first of its kind Oceania exhibit
- TV 3: Meghan Markle attends Oceania exhibition in London
- Royal Family’s website: Duchess of Sussex attends opening of Oceania (images of the duchess’s visit to the exhibition)
- Royal Academy of Art Facebook: Video of procession and opening ceremony
About Oceania and New Zealand’s contribution
The contemporary artists with work included in the exhibition are Mark Adams, Yuki Kihara, Mata Aho Collective, Fiona Pardington, Michael Parekowhai, John Pule and Lisa Reihana.
Oceania was 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 exhibition was curated by Professor Nicholas Thomas FBA, Director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge and Dr Peter Brunt, Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington in conjunction with Dr Adrian Locke, Senior Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.
New Zealand (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Papua New Guinea and the Kingdom of Tonga are partnering with the Royal Academy of Arts to present the Oceania exhibition in London. Themes of the exhibition including voyaging, place-making and encounters relate to the past, present, and future of the Pacific. In a one-off offer by the Royal Academy the exhibition entry is free for all holders of New Zealand and Pacific Island passports.
Alongside the high profile of the exhibition, New Zealand and Pacific Island countries are holding events to promote discussion and debate about opportunities in the Pacific and the global issues the region is actively confronting. These include climate change, security challenges, and sustainable development.
Creative New Zealand invested $170,000 in the freighting of the contemporary artworks and the travel and accommodation for the artists to attend the opening of Oceania and participate in the public programme. The investment also covers international public relations in support of the exhibition.
Also providing support for Oceania are Te Papa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Toi Māori
For more information contact:
021 244 4016