Thirty works from The Brooklyn Museum’s collection of Polynesian and Island South Pacific art will open December 14, 1996 in a new gallery located near the Great Hall. The gallery expands the Museum’s display of the Arts of the Pacific and complements the 1995 installation of Melanesian art. Featured works in the installation include Maori gable masks, Easter Island lizard figures, and different types of Island South Pacific ancestor figures.
Because the production of art requires complex rituals in order to endow the art with spiritual powers, the artists of Polynesia often function as priests. Objects from this region include the Easter Island lizard figures, moko miro, which contain lizard, human, and avian features, and the Gable Mask, which demonstrates the curvilinear style of the Maori, unique to Polynesian art. Two intricately carved u’u clubs from the Marquesas islands which were highly valued personal objects and believed to contain great spiritual powers are included in the new display.
Because art is the primary vehicle for ancestor veneration in Island South Pacific, the Museum’s installation also includes different kinds of ancestor figures. These objects are primarily made from wood, may temporarily house the spirit of the deceased, and are honored with gifts of food, clothing, and other valuables. Included in the installation will be a nearly life-size tau tau funerary figure from the Toradja peoples of Sulawesi, which is remarkable for its portraiture, and a korwar from Irian Jaya, which was used as a communication tool between the living and the dead and was consulted for advice on major decisions involving hunting, war, and travel.
The installation of the arts of the Pacific Islands has been made possible by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede and Mrs. Melville W. Hall. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.