Ancestors of the Lake: Art of Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea

Ancestors of the Lake: Art of Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay, New Guinea

Edited by Virginia-Lee Webb, with additional contributions by Anna-Karina Hermkens, Philippe Peltier, Andrea E. Schmidt, Dirk Smidt, David van Duuren, Kristina Van Dyke, and Muridan Widjojo with Anna-Karina Hermkens
9 1/4 × 11 1/2 inches
136 pages

Published 2011


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Ancestors of the Lake examines the distinctive art of the Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay regions on the island of New Guinea, including their highly stylized wood sculptures and barkcloths painted with abstract designs (maro). Gathering together many important pieces for the first time, this volume includes examples from the landmark collections assembled in the 1920s by the French writer and art dealer Jacques Viot and Swiss explorer, anthropologist, and collector Paul Wirz. It reproduces a number of their contemporaneous in situ photographs, and the authors profile these men as well as other collectors, scholars, and curators who brought this art to the attention of Europeans and Americans; explore how Surrealist artists encountered and found inspiration in it; and examine the significance of the works to the peoples, both the past and present, of Lake Sentani and Humboldt Bay.

About the Authors
Virginia-Lee Webb has published widely on Pacific Islands and African art and their display and photographic representation, including in Re-Presenting Pacific Art (2010) and Coaxing the Spirits to Dance: Art and Society in the Papuan Gulf of New Guinea (2006). She was a research curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Anna-Karina Hermkens has published in several journals and books, including Shadows of New Guinea (2007). She is affiliated with the Institute for Religious Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands; Macquarie University, Sydney; and Monash University, Melbourne.

Philippe Peltier, a curator at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, has contributed to several books on the art of the Pacific Islands and its impact on western art, including New Ireland: Art of the South Pacific (2006) and “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern (2002).

Andrea Schmidt is the author of the biography Paul Wirz: Ein Wanderer auf der Suche nach der “wahren Natur” (1998) and has worked for several museums and universities.

Dirk Smidt has contributed to several books on the art of New Guinea, including Shadows of New Guinea (2007), New Guinea Art (2005), and Pacific Material Culture (1995). He was a curator at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden.

David van Duuren was a curator at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. He wrote Oceania in the Tropenmuseum (2010) and A Passion for Indonesian Art: The Georg Tillmann (1882–1941) Collection at the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (1996), during his tenure.

Kristina Van Dyke is an independent scholar of African art and former director of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis. While she was curator of collections and research the Menil Collection, she edited African Art from The Menil Collection (2008).

Muridan Widjojo is one of Indonesia’s leading experts on Papua. A senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Jakarta, he lectures on social history at the University of Indonesia in Depok.