Delicately constructed body ornaments, strikingly carved and painted wooden shields, rare gourd masks, woven yupin and timbuwarra ceremonial figures and a distinctive selection of traditional pottery are just a few aspects of our diverse Pacific art collection.
The Art Gallery of NSW began collecting art from the Pacific region in 1962 at the instigation of our then deputy director, Tony Tuckson. Starting with purchases from commercial galleries in Sydney, the collection expanded significantly after Tuckson travelled to the Sepik region of New Guinea in 1965. The trip resulted in the first major exhibition of Melanesian art to be held at the Gallery, in 1966. One of the major lenders to that exhibition was Stanley Gordon Moriarty. Between 1968 and 1977, the Gallery acquired over 500 works from the Moriarty Collection, the largest and most important private collection of New Guinea Highland art. Today, our Pacific art collection numbers over 700 works from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and West Irian Jaya, and conveys the great cultural diversity of this vast area. A changing selection of works is displayed outside the Gallery’s research library.