1 Jan 2006

Macmillan Brown lecture 3, 2006

From The Macmillan Brown Lectures, 9:03 am on 1 January 2006

A broader context: Pacific art in global terms. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa has a significant advocacy role to play in speaking for and about the art of New Zealand's Polynesian peoples. Cultural diplomacy underpins the push to present the best of our art traditions to new audiences in European countries where, ironically, the idea of the art of the stereotypical Pacific "other" was first constructed. New Zealand's art culture, in global terms, may be tiny but there is a burgeoning European and Asian interest in customary and contemporary Maori and Pacific art. The opening of the new Musee du Quai Branly in Paris in June, the exhibition of taonga from Te Papa's Matauranga Maori collections that is going to the Tokyo National Museum next year, and the expansive exhibition of oceanic art planned for the Hayward Gallery in London, are indications that our art is "going global". In the international art market prices for customary treasures are rising steeply. Around forty years ago Colin McCahon told his incredulous students at the Elam School of Fine Arts that the Pacific - the world's largest but least populous geographic feature - would "become the centre of the art world". Has that unlikely prediction come to pass?