Authority and Ornament, Papua New Guinea



This exhibition was first shown at the Tribal Art Centre Basel and was then travelling to distinguished museums in Europe and the United States.

The 700-mile-long Sepik River originates in the north slopes of a mountain range in central New Guinea, a vast island region just north of Australia. From its source, it meanders through the lowlands of the interior and finally flows into the Pacific by way of a swampy delta on the northeast coast of the island. The exhibition covers the entire area of the Sepik River and the artworks come from the Upper, Middle and Lower Sepik regions.

These pieces constantly amaze given the regional diversity of styles around the Sepik. Yet the characteristic common to all is the close coexistence of power and playfulness: to our eyes, adjusted to our subjective experience, the alternation of an aggressively monstrous and a romantically playful visual idiom. At times both unite in a single piece, such as the famous flute stoppers of the Mundugumor. The contribution of the Sepik region to world art is largely based on this tension and polarity.