Oceania Exhibition

The year is 1768, and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition will reveal these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.

Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change.

Please note:

This exhibition includes many objects that Pacific Islanders consider living treasures. Some may pay their respects and make offerings through the duration of the exhibition. Please be aware that this exhibition contains human remains.

Entry to the exhibition is free for New Zealand and Pacific Island passport holders. Show passport at exhibition entrance. No need to book in advance. There may be a short wait at busy times.

Find out more and book tickets on the Royal Academy's website.

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