Oceanic Art

Oceanic Art at Skinner encompasses the South Pacific region, including art from Australia and the Polynesian and Micronesian islands, from New Zealand to Hawaii.



The South Pacific Ocean is peppered with islands, ranging in size from tiny volcanic outcroppings to the continent of Australia. These islands harbor everything from icy mountains to active volcanoes, and from dense rainforests to vast deserts. The people who live in the islands of Oceania have carried a rich tradition of art through periods of colonization and cultural upheavals.

Polynesian art includes the beautiful and refined artistic traditions of New Zealand, Tonga, Easter Island, the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, and many other island nations. Artisans created sculptures in wood, stone, and ivory along with materials from the sea such as shells and sea urchin spines. Expertly carved wooden masks and other objects held meaning in religious ceremonies and social rituals, and these objects were often created to last and be passed down in the family.

The rarest early Oceanic art forms come from Tahiti and the Marquesas islands. Skinner sold a Marquesas war club from the important James Hooper collection for $71,100. Hawaiian objects from before 1850 are particularly rare and desirable. On New Zealand, traditional Maori art forms continue to inspire contemporary culture and the arts. Carved figures, clubs, boxes, and other forms from the 18th and 19th century evoke the ancient beginnings of this rich cultural history.

Melanesia, a group of islands just north of Australia, includes New Guinea, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands, and has produced many striking art forms. Stone sculptures from as early as 1500 B.C. have been found in the mountains of New Guinea.

Although the South Pacific is perhaps best known for tribal masks, elaborate wood carving, and weaponry, this region also produced a remarkable variety of musical instruments.

At Skinner, Oceanic art appraisers handle objects from this important region with care and respect for longstanding cultural traditions. If you have a single important piece or a collection of art from the South Pacific, a Skinner expert would be happy to discuss the appraisal and consignment process with you.


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