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The Metropolitan Museum of Art to Host Program Exploring Indigenous Heritage Sites in Oceania on June 21

New York – WEBWIRE

Artist Taloi Havini will join Pacific thought leaders for a discussion about architectural environments in “What Makes a Cultural Landmark? Perspectives from Oceania” to celebrate the upcoming reopening of The Met’s new galleries for the Arts of Oceania in 2025

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in partnership with World Monuments Fund (WMF), will host a program on Friday, June 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. that will include presentations and discussion on Indigenous cultural heritage sites in Oceania with a focus on case studies in Samoa and Buka Island in the autonomous region of Bougainville. “What Makes a Cultural Landmark? Perspectives from Oceania” will include a panel of experts in the fields of art, architecture, and regenerative design and highlight the ways in which interisland mobility, ocean navigation, and cosmology influence the region’s expansive sense of spatial and built environments. The program is presented in anticipation of the opening of The Met’s reenvisioned Michael C. Rockefeller Wing in spring 2025 that will include new galleries for the Arts of Oceania, which will emphasize the role that the environment plays in art from the Pacific Islands. 

The event will be introduced by Maia Nuku, Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede Curator for Oceanic Art in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, who will provide insight into the curatorial approach that is now underway in the Museum’s galleries for the Arts of Oceania. The conversation will be moderated by Jonathan S. Bell, the World Monuments Fund’s Vice President of Programs, and include Taloi Havini, artist and curator and winner of the Artes Mundi 10 prize in 2024; Tuputau Lelaulu, Co-Founder and Director, MAU Studio; and Albert Refiti, Professor of Spatial Design and Architectural Environments, Auckland University of Technology. 

The collection of Oceanic art at The Met encompasses the arts and cultures of the Pacific Islands and comprises more than 2,800 works that reflect the rich history of creative expression and innovation that is emblematic of this expansive region. It includes art from the two neighboring regions of Australia and Island Southeast Asia, whose indigenous peoples share a common ancestry with Pacific Islanders. While the earliest examples of Oceanic art—the richly hued rock paintings of Aboriginal Australians—are believed to be more than 40,000 years old, the vast majority of works in the collection date from the 18th century to the present day. Highlights of the Oceania collection include monumental architecture from the diverse cultural groups of New Guinea and a spectacular range of ceremonial sculpture from the coastal archipelagoes that surround it. These exceptional artworks include some of the greatest achievements of Pacific Islanders in the realm of the visual arts: elaborately carved ancestral figures from ceremonial houses and spectacular ritual regalia, such as towering slit drums, crocodile reliquaries, and dazzling turtle shell masks from the coastal regions. 

Voyaging and the arts of navigation are another important feature, with decorated paddles, exquisitely carved canoe prows from the Solomon Islands, and a navigational chart from the coral atolls of the northern Pacific evoking the extraordinary story of voyaging—both literal and metaphorical—across the vast landscape of Oceania. The new galleries for Oceania will present 500 years of art from this unique region, showcasing the creativity of Pacific artists through the compelling lenses of global history, indigenous storytelling, oratory, and performance. 

“What Makes a Cultural Landmark? Perspectives from Oceania” is the final event in a series of programs about cultural heritage sites in the regions represented in the collections of the Arts of the Ancient Americas, Africa, and Oceania, located in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. The first panel in the series, in November 2023, explored topics related to significant cultural heritage sites in Africa, including Lalibela and Tigray in Ethiopia and the Wamala and Kasubi Tombs of the Kingdom of Buganda in Uganda. Since May 2022, The Met and WMF have collaborated on the creation of digital resources to be featured throughout The Met’s Arts of Africa galleries, which will provide visitors with a more expansive view of the richness of artistic and architectural expression on the continent of Africa. The Museum also launched Africa in Focus, which encompasses the broad scope of exhibitions, partnerships, and programs that reflect The Met’s decades-long commitment to studying and presenting the arts of Africa. In April 2024, a program with leading experts, architects, and archaeologists focused on landmarks in the region of Oaxaca and the significant relationship between local communities, lived traditions, and the natural landscapes in Mexico. There will be additional programming in conjunction with the reopening of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, and details will be announced in the coming months.  

About the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing

The Met’s Michael C. Rockefeller Wing is undergoing a major renovation project that will reenvision its collections for a new generation of visitors. The galleries—40,000 square feet on the Museum’s south side—are being overhauled and reimagined to reintroduce the department’s three distinct collections of African art, ancient American art, and Oceanic art, displaying them as discrete elements in an overarching wing that is in dialogue with the Museum’s collection as a whole. The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing is scheduled to reopen in 2025.

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