All the books reviews
Niels Wessel Bagge og hans samling - (German)
The Wessel Bagge collection is one of the most important in Denmark. At its heart is a meeting between modern art and ethnography, which is a favorite theme of the exhibitions of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark. Niels Wessel Bagge (1908–1990) built a unique collection during his life as actor, dancer, choreographer, and director. It is composed of pre-Columbian objects as well as pieces from Africa, New Guinea, and ancient Europe. While living in California for more than thirty years, he accumulated a collection of ethnographic pieces that was eventually donated to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The collection can be divided into four groups: Native American objects from the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico; artifacts from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize; pieces from the Andes region; and Inca artworks. This book, edited by art historian Hanne Pedersen also serves as the catalog of an exhibition held in early 2004 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form - (ENGLISH / FRENCH)
As a graduate student in the 1950s, Bill Holm began the first systematic structural study of northern Northwest Coast art. After documenting hundreds of bentwood boxes and chests, he published Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form in 1965. This book was to become a foundational reference on northern Northwest Coast Native art. Through his careful studies, Holm described the visual language of this art using new terminology that has become part of the established vocabulary that allows us to discuss works like these and understand changes in style both through time and between individual artists’ styles. Holm’s study reveals how these pieces, although varied in origin, material, size, and purpose, are related to a surprising degree through the organization and form of their two-dimensional surface decoration. A new softcover edition commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of this classic work now offers color illustrations for a new generation of readers as well as reflections from contemporary Northwest Coast artists about the impact of this seminal book.
Nouvelle-Guinée, danses de la couleur - (FRENCH)
Between 1966 and 1992, Josette and Charles Lenars, French photographers based in Paris and Nice, traveled through Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, taking thousands of images of cultural traditions facing extinction due to the pressures of the modern world and the more or less forced conversions performed by Catholic and Protestant missionaries. This magnificent book is an homage to these so-called "primitive" peoples, and to the amazing traditions of corporeal decoration they practice at their numerous feasts and ritual events. The age of these photographs makes them a valuable archive, which is enhanced by the texts of Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart, internationally known specialists in the decorative art of New Guinea, who have been conducting research on the populations of the Hagen and Duna areas of the Highlands since 1964. Their contributions have emphasized the appreciation these peoples display for nature, and their notion that decoration can be a means of expressing and communicating a vision of the universe and of themselves.
Objets de pouvoir en Nouvelle-Guinée - (FRENCH)
This study by Anne-Marie and Dominique Pétrequin is the fruit of twenty-one trips to New Guinea between 1984 and 2002, and the in situ collection of some 1,800 objects, which have been donated to the Musée d'Archaéologie Nationale in St. Germain-en-Laye (see the Museums section in this issue for information on the eponymous exhibition at the museum, which runs through January 8, 2007). Understanding the parameters that govern the production of an object today helps us interpret objects produced in the past. The study of New Guinean polished stone axe blades has given rise to a new interest in neolithic European tools. The authors show how objects of daily life are altered to transcend their original function and enter into a system of social symbols. The book is a vital addition to any library on New Guinea.
Objets des terres lointaines : Histoire de vie des missionnaires dans les collections du Musée des Confluences - (FRENCH)
This book, which represents a collaboration between the Musée des Confluences, the OEuvres Pontificales Missionnaires, and their research associates, presents the ethnographic collection of the former Musée de la Propagation de la Foi. Formed in the nineteenth century in the midst of scientific and cultural upheaval, and collected by missionaries who were attempting to Christianize peoples around the world, this collection provides insight into a variety of civilizations and cultures. The lives of these missionaries and those of the objects they collected are intertwined, opening a wider debate that contributes to the knowledge of mankind. These stories, which are related by the researchers who worked on these collections, convey the emotions of relationships that were forged at the far-flung ends of the world between people of different cultures more than a century ago.
Oceania. World Views of the South Seas / Ozeanien. Weltbilder der Südsee - (ENGLISH)
Founded in 1868, the Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich is Germany’s second most important tribal art museum after Berlin’s. The reopening of its Oceanic galleries was the motivation for this book, which highlights the museum’s rich collection. The objects, which include masks, statuettes, ornaments, and tapas, were mostly collected in the late nineteenth or very early twentieth century and are illustrated here accompanied by field photographs. The book is an homage to the peoples of Oceania as well as a valuable reference document.
Océanie. Signes de rites, symboles d'autorité - (FRENCH)
This catalogue accompanies the exhibition at the ING Cultural Centre in Brussels, which will be on view through March 15, 2009. Oceanic art is remarkable for its expressiveness, a characteristic that is everywhere to be seen in the richly illustrated pages of this fine book, which features many hitherto unpublished works. From Easter Island to New Guinea, by way of Hawaii and New Zealand, the wealth of Oceania's art forms is revealed. Without intending to be exhaustive—Oceania covers a third of the planet and is home to hundreds of different artistic styles—this work nonetheless presents an impressive overview of its variety. Oceania is divided into three areas—Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia—and includes hundreds of islands that have been inhabited for centuries. Its peoples created a variety of arts to honor their gods, their ancestors, and the spirits of nature, and transmitted those forms from generation to generation. This book presents a selection of masks along with both ritual and utilitarian objects. All of these creations testify to the artistic genius of cultures that succeeded in adapting to a variety of challenging environments. Melanesian art is exuberant in its forms and finds its inspiration in a rich mythology, in which the history of men and animals is intertwined. Polynesian art, on the other hand, existed mainly in the service of rulers, believed to have been direct descendants of the gods. Micronesian art is characterized by its great refinement and the sobriety of its formal approach. After an introduction that deals with the origins, characteristics, and nature of artistic traditions in the various areas (and a discussion of Western colonial influence), articles by various specialists place the objects into their social, ritual and symbolic contexts.
Ode au grand art africain: les statues meurent aussi - (FRENCH)
This catalogue accompanies the exhibition "Ode au grand art africain. Les statues meurent aussi" organized by Parcours des Mondes from September to October, 2010 in collaboration with La Monnaie de Paris. The catalogue provides the complete and systematic inventory of the 135 artworks filmed by Alain Renais and Chris Marker in 1935 in major private and museum collections. Several reflexion texts about the scope of the movie and the context of realization accompanies this large inventory.
Olmec Archaeology and Early Mesoamerica - (ENGLISH)
This comprehensive study of Olmec archaeology and society is a significant resource for learning about this culture. The book details most aspects of this ancient culture and also includes a chapter about the history of Olmec studies. It outlines a geographically widespread culture where different communities lived in and adapted to a wide variety of local environments, resulting in considerable diversity of lifeways and art styles. Pool also addresses the culture’s sociopolitical changes, from its early beginnings to its final collapse.
Out of the Amazon. Material Culture, Myth, and Reality in the Amazon - (ENGLISH)
Priceless pieces from the Amazonia collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science—ceremonial objects, masks, body costumes, headdresses, and other rare artifacts—are showcased in the special exhibition Out of the Amazon: Life on the River. Sharing the story of thirteen tribes, visitors are offered a glimpse of everyday life, as well as the spiritual beliefs and customs, among the rapidly disappearing indigenous groups of the Amazon rainforest. This richly illustrated book is the catalog for this exhibition, but also stands on its own as a fi ne and welcome addition to this little-published fi eld. It also highlights this museum’s remarkable collection of more than 4,000 objects representing some 130 tribes, many of which no longer exist, details of which are elucidated in fourteen essays authored by Adam Mekler, associate curator of Amazonia at the HMNS, Dirk Van Tuerenhout, and Daniel Brooks. The standout pieces are the characteristic brightly colored featherwork objects, but examples of less-well-known art forms such as basketry, wood sculpture, and body adornment in bone, seeds, and fi ber are also featured.