'Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific' Brings the Archipelago to LACMA This Winter

  • November 20, 2019 20:39

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Constance Gordon Cumming, Levuka in Ovalau, Fiji, 19th September 1875, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge: 1998.55, photo reproduced by permission of the Museum Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Necklace (wasekaseka/waseisei), Fiji, Early to mid-19th century, Sperm whale ivory and coir, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge: 1931.203, Collected by Alfred Maudslay 1875-1880, Photo reproduced by permission of University of Cambridge Museum Archaeology & Anthropology
Barkcloth (Masi bola bola), circa 1800–20, mulberry fiber and natural pigments, 149 × 55 in., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Mark and Carolyn Blackburn, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA
Alfred Henry Burton, Fijian Warrior (with whale tooth necklace), 1884, albumen print, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, partial gift of Mark and Carolyn Blackburn and purchased with funds from LACMA's 50th Anniversary Gala and Fiji Water, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will present Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific (Dec. 15, 2019 to July 19, 2020), the first substantial project on the art of Fiji to be mounted in the U.S.

The exhibition features over 280 artworks drawn from major international collections, including the Fiji Museum, British Museum, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge), the Smithsonian, and distinguished private collections. The exhibition includes figurative sculpture, ritual kava bowls, breastplates of pearl shell and whale ivory, large-scale barkcloths, small portable temples, weapons, and European watercolors and paintings.

Additionally, Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific showcases historical photographs from LACMA’s recently acquired Blackburn Collection, as well as a newly commissioned 26-foot double-hulled sailing canoe (drua) constructed in Fiji using traditional materials and techniques (made possible by the exhibition's presenting sponsor FIJI Water).

Following the presentation at LACMA, the exhibition will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts from September 12, 2020 through January 3, 2021. 

Consisting of an archipelago of more than 300 islands, Fiji’s landscape is rich, with fertile soils on most islands providing ample food crops and lagoons of extensive reef systems supplying fish and shellfish. The local environment produced the majority of materials represented in the exhibition, including a wide variety of timbers for housing, canoes, and weapons; plant materials for textiles, mats, roofing, ropes, and bindings; clay, bamboo, and coconuts for containers; and shells and other marine materials for adornments.

Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific showcases the range and quality of these artworks from the past two centuries and highlights the skill and creative adaptability of the artists and craftspeople who made them. The exhibition presents these artworks in eight thematic sections, including: Voyaging, Fiber and Textile Arts, Warfare, Embodying the Ancestors, Adorning the Body, Chiefly Objects, Respecting the Ancestors, and Fiji Life. The later section illustrates 19th-century Fiji with 22 remarkable photographs including studio portraits, landscapes, architecture, and other features of daily life.

Double Portable Temple (bure kalou), Fiji, Early 19th century, Coir, wood, reed, and shells, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, gift of Joseph Winn Jr., 1835, Photo © Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo by Jefferey Dykes

Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific was organized by Dr. Steven Hooper, director and professor of visual arts, and his team at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, England, where it was on view October 15, 2016–February 12, 2017. The exhibition has been reformatted for the presentation at LACMA, and co-curated by Hooper and Nancy Thomas, senior deputy director, art administration and collections at LACMA, and includes major loans from U.S. collections.

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