The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York

Arts of the South Seas

January 29–May 19, 1946 The Museum of Modern Art

Arts of the South Seas was a singularly comprehensive exhibition of artwork from Oceanic cultures. Part of a series of non-Western, non-modern art exhibitions, it featured more than 400 works of art from Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, and Australia. In the accompanying catalogue, René d’Harnoncourt, the director of the Museum’s Department of Manual Industry, explained the impetus for the exhibition: although Oceanic art was relatively unknown in the West, there was great “kinship between arts of the South Seas and recent movements in modern art such as Expressionism and Surrealism.” The most imposing object in the exhibition was a replica of a stone Moai (the well-known carved heads of Easter Island); at 11 feet tall, it could not fit in the elevators and was instead installed in the Museum’s entrance hall.

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Installation images

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