Spanning part 1,800 cultures and also languages, Oceanic art has long gone under the radar. Now, says specialist Victor Teodorescu, that is ‘having a moment’, v a number of spectacular pieces available in our Paris sale on 29 June

What is Oceanic art?

The art of Oceania encompasses the artefacts developed by the indigenous peoples the a geographic region spanning virtually a third of the world’s surface, native Tonga and Tahiti in Polynesia to the scattered archipelago of Melanesia and Micronesia. Making up some 20,000 Pacific islands, and close come 1,800 cultures and languages, Oceania is one of the most varied regions on the planet.

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The art of Oceania falls into two major categories, corresponding to the years before and after western contact. The rock paintings and also engravings the the Australian Aboriginals, believed to be much more than 40,000 years old,are the oldest surviving works of Oceanic art.


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

Today, the industry for Oceanic art is primarily concerned with works that were initially conceived because that ceremonial use.

The artist-makers that Oceanic art are usually unknown, for this reason its market value is greatly influenced by provenance, condition and rarity.

What space the key styles and materials new collectors should know about?

The sheer scale of Oceania provides stylistic categorisation the its arts a facility undertaking: artefacts vary in size and kind depending on the islands from which lock originate, and also their materiality, texture and splendour differ according come function, even if it is ritualistic or otherwise.

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

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

It can additionally be ornately embellished with detailed carving, feathers, beads, or shells. Clay, sperm whale ivory and stone are among the various other most commonly employed materials in Oceanic Art.

How did the market for Oceanic art build in the West?

The industry for Oceanic arts was created in the late 18th to beforehand 19th century when the first explorers, traders and also missionaries returned to Europe through ethnographic artefacts.

These artefacts to be initially built up and showed as ‘curiosities’ across Europe, and also later obtained by museums and also private collectors.


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

By the start of the 20th century, avant-garde artists and dealers in Berlin and Paris — including Matisse, Picasso, André Derain, Paul Guillaume, Charles Ratton, william Oldmanand Guillaume Apollinaire — had come to be keen collectors of ethnographic objects, regarding them together aesthetic functions in their own right. The influence of ethnographic art on their style has become known together Primitivism.

What is the existing state that the market?

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


Aceremonial roof figure, center Sepik, Yuat river, Papua brand-new Guinea, 1600-1890. Height: 41¾ in(106 cm). Sold 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 experienced a ceremonial roof figure from the Sepik an ar of Papua new Guinea (pre 1890) realise €2.5 million, much more than double its high estimate. An ext recently, in 2017, the Vérité Collection achieved €16.7 million at 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 people record for the most expensive Oceanic art object offered at auction. One more highlight, a really rare black color Uli frostbite from new Ireland, sold for circa €2.9 million.


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


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

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

‘Oceanic art has remained under the radar for countless years,’ he says, ‘but collectors room now beginning to realise that an excellent quality pieces are typically rarer 보다 African works and that their estimates still lag behind African works at auction.’

The most popular regions

1. Polynesia

Teodorescu states that Polynesian art — spanning 1,000 islands, including new Zealand, Easter Island, the chef Islands, Fiji, Marquesas Islands, Tonga and Hawaii — is at this time the many in-demand type of Oceanic art. Amongst its very first European collectors were Captain James Cook and also the artists and also scientists board the HMS Endeavour, which collection sail for Australia and brand-new Zealand in 1768.

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

The connection between Polynesian art and the earliest exploration voyages the the south Pacific ocean ‘make it the oldest and the many historically rich layout of Oceanic art on the market’, claims the specialist. ‘It’s likewise the rarest.’ This is since much Oceanic art was destroyed in the beforehand 19th century as timeless cultures taken on Christianity. ‘And many of what has survived is now housed in windy collections,’ to add the specialist.

Among the most coveted Polynesian artefacts space Easter Island artefacts, chef Island God staffs and also Maori accessories from new Zealand — sculptural timber carvings, such together bowls, statues and clubs; objects linked with oceanic travel, including paddles and canoe prows; or any kind of ceremonial object of creative and social relevance.

The really rare Nukuoro figures, created by the world of Nukuoro Atoll, a Polynesian enclave in Micronesia, are most likely to also be at the optimal of any kind of collector"s perform of Polynesian art.

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

Polynesia is mostly known for its gigantic Easter Island stone Moai. Smaller wooden Easter Island sculptures, sculpted to honour ancestors, are very popular amongst collectors because they ‘symbolise one of the many emblematic Polynesian societies’, states Teodorescu.

2. Melanesia

Melanesian art covers Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Torres Strait, new Caledonia and also Papua new Guinea, and also is today the 2nd most extremely coveted layout of Oceanic art amongst serious collectors.

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

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

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

The ceremonial wood malangan from brand-new Ireland — decorative ornaments or numbers intricately sculpted for the bicycle of funeral rituals — are also really popular. Principally concerned with honouring and dismissing the souls the a particular individual, malangan carvings were usually destroyed, allowed to rot, or offered after service.

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

In contrast to the intricately sculpted malangan from the phibìc of new Ireland, Uli ancestor numbers from main New Ireland are much less ornate. Hermaphroditic in type and thought to be imbued v the spiritual strength of the deceased leader, they were traditionally maintained in routine houses and also paraded during lengthy fertility, initiation, or funerary rites.

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What need to collectors be mindful of?

A big proportion that the Oceanic arts brought back to Europe through explorers is well recorded in windy archives. ‘These traceable histories inspire many world to collect, as well as helping new collectors to know what is old and what is new,’ explains Teodorescu.

But Oceanic art is reasonably scarce to market, so new collectors space advised to research, visit exhibitions and also train themselves to recognise the multitude of various styles.

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Where can brand-new collectors go to find out more?

The brother Museum and also the university of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and also Anthropology have actually superb collections of Oceanic art, as execute the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac in Paris, The Ethnological Museum that Berlin, The Tropen Museum in Amsterdam, The MET in new York and The Museum of brand-new Zealand dare Papa Tongarewain brand-new Zealand, to name only a few.

key images:

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