YAL TON, Haus Man, 2012, three-channel digital video installation with audio. Courtesy the artists and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. 

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea
Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

The most populous island nation in Melanesia is highly diverse, with more than 750 languages and 1,000 ethnic groups. Despite strong recent economic growth—driven by resource extraction—the low rate of human development in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is abetted by corruption, poor governance and rapid population growth.

State infrastructure and support for the visual arts are meager, with most artists practicing self-reliance. The National Museum and Art Gallery in the capital Port Moresby is a repository of 55,000 anthropological and archaeological artifacts and 7,000 contemporary works, and is led by Cambridge-educated director Andrew Moutu.

The 11th “Luk Save Art Show” (9/21–22) at Port Moresby’s Crowne Plaza Hotel comprised around 200 artworks, ranging from drawings, paintings and sculpture to pottery and, for the first year, photography, by more than 56 artists. The NASFUND Best in Show award was presented to Johannes Gelag for his woodblock print, Family Against the Storm (2013).

Art Stret, the nation’s first and only commercial art gallery, is located in the capital and run by Luk Save founder Amanda Adams. Exhibitions this year included a solo print exhibition by prominent female artist Gazellah Bruder (3/26–5/4), characterized by earthy interpretations of the female form. “The Mytinger Project: One World, Two Visions” (6/18–7/27) was a joint painting show with young Port Moresby-based Jeffry Feeger’s realist portraits of local communities, and the late American artist Caroline Mytinger (1897–1980), who created ethnographic studies on her 1920s travels through PNG.

In the nonprofit sector, Gallery PNG, founded by artist Daniel Waswas, aims to develop promising young indigenous talent with residencies and art classes.

In Australia, the group show “Taboo” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (12/19/12–2/24), included Brisbane-based PNG artist Eric Bridgeman video installation with Yal Ton, Haus Man (2012), exploring the traditional “men’s house” used for community governance. Also in Sydney, Bridgeman’s work appeared in the group show “Towards the Morning Sun” (9/7–10/21) at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. The inaugural Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival (4/5–7), held in Melbourne, was a collaboration between the newly formed Big Island Artists’ Collective and Footscray Community Arts Centre, with an exhibition, “Meleponi Pasifika” (4/5–21), offering paintings, prints, weaving, ceramics and digital art, including the work of diasporic artist Taloi Havini and video artist Lisa Hilli, who explores issues of cross-cultural identity.

Painter and performance artist Jeffry Feeger took part in the New York Musical Theatre Festival by creating a painting in front of a live audience in Feather (7/8–28), a multimedia narrative performance about love and sacrifice. In Canada, the University of British Colombia’s Museum of Anthropology presented “Paradise Lost?” (7/24–9/29), which included PNG painter Pax Jakupa, carver Michael Timbin, contemporary metal sculptor Tom Deko and bilum weavers Cathy Kata and Bepi Pius, reimagining their identities beyond colonialism and ethnocentrism.

First established in Washington, DC, and London, the Pacific Islands Society announced Feeger as one of five Pacific artists chosen for the 2013 Next Generation Pacific Artists Program, which aims to promote young talent.