Spanning part 1,800 cultures and languages, Oceanic art has long unable to do under the radar. Now, claims specialist Victor Teodorescu, the is ‘having a moment’, v a number of spectacular pieces available in ours Paris sale on 29 June

What is Oceanic art?

The arts of Oceania includes the artefacts produced by the aboriginal peoples the a geographic region spanning practically a 3rd of the world’s surface, native Tonga and also Tahiti in Polynesia come the scattered islands of Melanesia and Micronesia. Making up some 20,000 Pacific islands, and also close come 1,800 cultures and also languages, Oceania is among the most varied regions on the planet.

You are watching: Most traditional oceanic art was wiped out by

The art of Oceania falls into two significant categories, corresponding to the years before and after western contact. The absent paintings and engravings the the Australian Aboriginals, thought to be an ext than 40,000 years old,are the earliest surviving functions of Oceanic art.


Bouclier shield, Murray River, Australia. Height: 48 in (122 cm). Estimate: €35,000-50,000. Readily available in African, Oceanic and also North American Arton 29 June 2020 at Christie’s in Paris

Today, the market for Oceanic arts is primarily involved with functions that were originally conceived for ceremonial use.

The artist-makers of Oceanic art room usually unknown, so its market value is considerably influenced by provenance, condition and rarity.

What space the crucial styles and also materials new collectors should understand about?

The sheer range of Oceania provides stylistic categorisation the its arts a facility undertaking: artefacts vary in dimension and type depending ~ above the archipelago from which they originate, and also their materiality, texture and also splendour differ according to function, whether ritualistic or otherwise.

‘It’s vital to find a style that resonates with you,’ says Victor Teodorescu, a professional in African and also Oceanic arts at Christie’s in Paris. ‘Some new collectors may react to the graphic, and, at times, dream-like quality of Melanesian art, while others might react come the straightforward shapes and geometric develops of Polynesian art.’

Crafted for routine purposes, a big proportion of Oceanic art is linked with spiritual properties and made native both hard and also soft wood, depending upon its geographic origin.

It can likewise be ornately embellished with in-depth carving, feathers, beads, or shells. Clay, sperm whale cream color and rock are amongst the various other most frequently employed materials in Oceanic Art.

How did the industry for Oceanic art develop in the West?

The sector for Oceanic arts was developed in the so late 18th to early on 19th century as soon as the first explorers, traders and missionaries returned to Europe with ethnographic artefacts.

These artefacts were initially gathered and displayed as ‘curiosities’ across Europe, and later obtained by museums and private collectors.


Kerewa skull hook, Agiba, Kikori Delta, Goaribari Island, Gulf of Papua brand-new Guinea. Height:36¼ in (92 cm). Estimate: €120,000-180,000. Available in African, Oceanic and also North American Arton 29 June 2020 in ~ Christie’s in Paris

By the beginning of the 20th century, avant-garde artists and also dealers in Berlin and Paris — including Matisse, Picasso, André Derain, Paul Guillaume, Charles Ratton, wilhelm Oldmanand Guillaume Apollinaire — had come to be keen collectors that ethnographic objects, about them as aesthetic works in their very own right. The affect of ethnographic arts on their layout has come to be known together Primitivism.

What is the present state that the market?

‘Oceanic arts is enjoying its time in the spotlight,’ claims Teodorescu. ‘Long-time collectors of african art space showing more interest in the field, if long-time collectors that Oceanic art room willing to pay more for superior pieces.’


Aceremonial roof figure, middle Sepik, Yuat river, Papua brand-new Guinea, 1600-1890. Height: 41¾ in(106 cm). Offered for €2,505,500 top top 19 June 2013 at Christie’s in Paris

In June 2013, a specialized Oceanic revenue at Christie’s in Paris witnessed a ceremonial roof number from the Sepik an ar of Papua new Guinea (pre 1890) realise €2.5 million, an ext than twice its high estimate. An ext recently, in 2017, the Vérité Collection completed €16.7 million in ~ Christie’s Paris — the highest performing single-owner revenue in Paris in a decade.

The Hawaiian god statueshown belowwas the highlight the majority of that sale, realising €6.3 million — a world record for the most expensive Oceanic art object offered at auction. Another highlight, a very rare black color Uli frosting from new Ireland, offered for circa €2.9 million.


Hawaiian figure, Kona style, representing the god that war, Ku Ka’ili Moku, circa 1780-1820. Height: 21 in (53 cm). Sold for €6,345,000 on 21 November 2017 in ~ Christie’s in Paris


Uli ancestor figure, brand-new Ireland. Height: 28¾ in (73 cm). Marketed for €2,970,000 ~ above 21 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

According come Teodorescu, this current rise in the market deserve to be deadline to four primary factors: the rarity of piece in exceptional problem to market; the access of documentary provenance; a widening tendency for cross-category collecting; and a cultivation enthusiasm amongst both publicly institutions and also private collectors come re-evaluate the overlooked.

‘Oceanic art has remained under the radar for numerous years,’ that says, ‘but collectors space now beginning to realise that great quality piece are typically rarer than African works and that their approximates still lag behind African functions at auction.’

The most popular regions

1. Polynesia

Teodorescu states that Polynesian arts — covering 1,000 islands, including new Zealand, Easter Island, the cook Islands, Fiji, Marquesas Islands, Tonga and also Hawaii — is right now the most in-demand form of Oceanic art. Amongst its first European collectors were Captain James Cook and the artists and also scientists aboard the HMS Endeavour, which collection sail because that Australia and new Zealand in 1768.

Hawaiian bowl, Hawaiian islands archipelago. Diameter:14¼ in (36 cm). Estimate: €15,000-25,000. Offered in African, Oceanic and also North American Arton 29 June 2020 at Christie’s in Paris

The connection in between Polynesian art and the earliest exploration voyages of the southern Pacific ocean ‘make that the oldest and the most historically rich style of Oceanic art on the market’, says the specialist. ‘It’s additionally the rarest.’ This is because much Oceanic art was ruined in the beforehand 19th century as traditional cultures embraced Christianity. ‘And many of what has actually survived is currently housed in public collections,’ to add the specialist.

Among the many coveted Polynesian artefacts are Easter Island artefacts, chef Island God staffs and also Maori ornaments from brand-new Zealand — sculptural timber carvings, such together bowls, statues and also clubs; objects connected with oceanic travel, consisting of paddles and also canoe prows; or any type of ceremonial thing of creative and social relevance.

The very rare Nukuoro figures, developed by the people of Nukuoro Atoll, a Polynesian enclave in Micronesia, are most likely to additionally be in ~ the peak of any kind of collector"s list of Polynesian art.

The Hooper Moai Kavakava figure, Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Polynesia. Height: 17⅜ in (44 cm). Offered for €850,000on 10 April 2019 in ~ Christie’s in Paris

Polynesia is mostly recognized for its huge Easter Island stone Moai. Smaller wooden Easter Island sculptures, carved to honour ancestors, are very popular amongst collectors because they ‘symbolise among the most emblematic Polynesian societies’, states Teodorescu.

2. Melanesia

Melanesian art covers Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Torres Strait, brand-new Caledonia and Papua brand-new Guinea, and is today the 2nd most very coveted layout of Oceanic art among serious collectors.

Its decorative detailing offered as a good source of inspiration for countless 20th-century Surrealist artists, including Roland Tual, Wifredo Lam and Max Ernst, and Surrealist poets, including Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara and André Breton.

Masks indigenous the an ar around the Sepik flow in new Guinea, dating to the so late 19th century, are amongst the most sought-after objects from Melanesia.

Brag Sebug mask, Murik Lagoon, reduced Sepik region, Papua new Guinea. Height:19½ in (49.5 cm). Estimate: €40,000-60,000. Available inAfrican, Oceanic and also North American Arton 29 June 2020 in ~ Christie’s in Paris

The ceremonial wooden malangan from new Ireland — decorative accessories or figures intricately sculpted for the bicycle of funeral rituals — space also very popular. Principally involved with honouring and dismissing the souls the a specific individual, malangan carvings were typically destroyed, permitted to rot, or offered after service.

Malangan mask, brand-new Ireland, Papua brand-new Guinea. Height: 60 in (101.5 cm). Estimate: €70,000-100,000. Readily available in African, Oceanic and North AmericanArt top top 29 June 2020 at Christie’s in Paris

In comparison to the intricately carved malangan native the phibìc of brand-new Ireland, Uli ancestor numbers from central New Ireland are less ornate. Hermaphroditic in kind and thought to be imbued v the spiritual strength of the deceased leader, they to be traditionally preserved in ritual houses and also paraded during an extensive fertility, initiation, or funerary rites.

Sign up today

Christie"s digital Magazine it is intended our ideal features, videos, and also auction news to your inbox every week

What need to collectors be conscious of?

A large proportion that the Oceanic art brought ago to Europe by explorers is well documented in windy archives. ‘These traceable histories inspire many people to collect, and helping brand-new collectors to understand what is old and what is new,’ defines Teodorescu.

But Oceanic art is relatively scarce come market, so new collectors room advised to research, visit exhibitions and also train themselves to recognise the multitude of different styles.

See more: I Really Want A Mew, How To Get Mew In Heartgold, Soulsilver

Where can brand-new collectors go to discover more?

The brother Museum and the college of Cambridge Museum the Archaeology and also Anthropology have superb collection of Oceanic art, as do the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac in Paris, The Ethnological Museum that Berlin, The Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, The MET in brand-new York and also The Museum of brand-new Zealand dare Papa Tongarewain brand-new Zealand, come name just a few.

main images:

From left: Kerewa skull hook, Agiba, Kikori Delta, Goaribari Island, Gulf the Papua new Guinea. Height:36¼ in (92 cm). Estimate: €120,000-180,000. Malangan mask, new Ireland, Papua new Guinea. Height: 60 in (101.5 cm). Estimate: €70,000-100,000. Brag Sebug mask, Murik Lagoon, lower Sepik region, Papua brand-new Guinea. Height: 19½ in (49.5 cm). Estimate: €40,000-60,000. All offered in African, Oceanic and also North American art on 29 June 2020 in ~ Christie’s in Paris