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A Superb Old New Guinea Asmat Canoe Prow Ornament West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

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Collection No. TB-1709
Size Height 106cm
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New Guinea Oceanic Art
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A Superb Old New Guinea Asmat Canoe Prow Ornament from the South Coast of West Papua (Irian Jaya) Indonesia 

This very fine Asmat Sculpture was once on the front of a large war canoe that held about 20 to 25 warriors standing up and paddling.  The canoe & canoe prow ornament was carved from a single large tree.

The Asmat relation to trees is part of their creation mythology where the creator Fumeripitsj was lonely so he carved the first Asmat people from a tree & brought them to life by playing his drum.

The main figure is an important Ancestor that has a totemic crocodile on his chest, which is an important Asmat symbol associated with ritual headhunting in their past.  The canoe prow can be viewed in either position either as a vertical or horizontal sculpture, I personally like it as shown in the photos.

The Asmat people and their art became well known when Michael Clark Rockefeller who was collecting Asmat Art and was presumed dead there in November 1961.  The artworks he collected are still beautifully displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

This beautiful Canoe Ornament I field was collected in Manep Village in the remote central Asmat area in 1985.  I was told that it belonged to the grandfather of the owner going back probably to the 1940s, it was kept as a family heirloom.

This Canoe Prow along with other artworks was collected by Todd Barlin over a 2-year period from 1985-1986, most of these artworks are now in major museum collections around the world including The Musee du Quai Branly Museum in Paris. When you walk into the Oceanic Art Pavilion the first thing you see are monumental Ancestor Poles from the Asmat & Mimika along with a Soul Boat, Shields, and Dance Costumes from the Asmat & Mimika, all of those artworks were collected at the same time as this Canoe Prow.

Photos above of the groundbreaking exhibition “The Asmat & Mimika” at The National Museum of African & Oceanic Art in Paris 1996 now part of The Musee du Quai Branly Museum.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection: Collected by Todd Barlin in 1985 with the owner shown in the village

I first went to Papua New Guinea in 1985 for an adventure & what I found was that I really enjoyed being with the people of New Guinea, over the next 38 years I spent extensive time spent collecting and documenting traditional art & ceremonies in remote areas of Papua New Guinea & West Papua, The Solomon Islands & Vanuatu & the other Pacific Islands countries. During these travels, I made major collections of New Guinea & Oceanic Art for major Museums and Public Art Galleries

I was honoured by being in the prestigious Louvre Museum Magazine for the collections I made for The Museum of African & Oceanic Art Paris in1996 (now the Musee Quai Branly) for the exhibition “Asmat et Mimika d’ Irian Jaya April 1996 At THE MUSEE NATIONAL des ARTS D’AFRIQUE et d’ OCEANIE, Paris

See all of the links & photos in my new EXHIBITIONS GALLERY and there is the link to the article in the prestigious Louvre Magazine 1996

I have artwork for Museums & Art Galleries but also for collectors at every stage of their collecting. I want to encourage people to explore the fine art of New Guinea & West Papua and the Pacific Islands and to be able to see and touch the artworks in a relaxed and friendly manner in my Sydney Gallery.  I would like to invite you to visit my gallery and see the artworks in person and also look at my website www.oceanicartsaustralia.com  where there are many Galleries & Sub Galleries to explore.

My Gallery of nearly 40 years is the last physical gallery in Sydney that specialises in New Guinea & Oceanic Art. Sydney is just a couple hours’ flight to New Guinea & the Pacific Islands where all of these amazing artworks came from, Australia’s closest neighbours.


If you have a similar “object” for sale please contact me for the best price and honest advice by a Government approved valuer 

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