The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has announced the acquisition of a major collection of forty-six rare and historic masterworks of Oceanic art.
The pieces, which make up one of the most significant private collections of Oceanic art assembled in the twentieth century, were acquired from the Detroit-based Masco Corporation Foundation with a $5 million challenge grant from the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation. LACMA trustees Jane and Terry Semel, David Bohnett, Camilla Chandler Frost, and Gayle and Ed Roski funded the balance of the collection's purchase price.
The acquisition substantially broadens LACMA's permanent collection of Oceanic art and underscores the museum's commitment to collecting and exhibiting works of art from underrepresented areas of the world. Representative of the wide range of arts from the Pacific regions, the collection's greatest strengths lie in the areas of Polynesia and Melanesia, and include objects from Micronesia and Australia. Key works include an eighteenth-century Hawaiian drum collected by Captain James Cook in 1778, an Easter Islands dance paddle carved around 1800, and an extremely rare mid-nineteenth-century wicker shield from the Solomon Islands.
Oceanic works of art had a significant influence on various Modernist movements, including Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism, as well as on many writers and scholars in the early twentieth century. With the addition of the collection, to be installed in February 2009, LACMA will join the likes of the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and the Saint Louis Museum of Art as one of the few museums in the country exhibiting substantial holdings of Oceanic art.
"In our efforts to become a truly world museum with a Los Angeles point of view, acquiring art of the Pacific islands is essential, and this acquisition is a landmark event," said LACMA CEO Michael Govan. "Previously, LACMA owned only a handful of Oceanic objects, but with this strategic initiative we now boast one of the finest such collections in the nation."