Malagan Figures, mid 1900s

Unknown Artist, New Ireland, Papua New Guinea

wood, paint, fiber, and shell

2001.177

This sculpture was made by an artist on the island of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, for use in an indigenous Malagan ceremony. The entire surface is covered with brilliantly colored geometric designs that serve to unify the three parts of the composition: the central fish and the two male human figures attached to its side and snout. The fish is carved from a single piece of wood, and open projections form its mouth and dorsal fins.

Oceanic Art

The Oceanic art collection includes an array of art forms from the South Pacific region and is especially strong in art from the geographic regions of Melanesia and Polynesia.

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Joan & George Anderman Gallery of Oceanic Art, Level 3, Hamilton Building

The Collection

The Oceanic art collection includes an array of art forms from the South Pacific region and is especially strong in art from the geographic regions of Melanesia and Polynesia. This collection of more than 1,000 pieces includes important historic monumental sculpture, delicate bark cloth, intricate wood carvings, and the work of contemporary artists such as Mathias Kauage and Laben Sakale.

Native Arts Department

The Native Arts Department is composed of the arts of the indigenous peoples of North America, Africa, and Oceania. Supporting these collections is a library of books and periodicals on specialized topics in native arts.

The Oceanic collection includes all major island groups, with particular strength in late 18th and early 19th century wood carving and painted bark cloth from the islands of Samoa, Tonga, and Hawaii. Most impressive is the Melanesian collection, consisting of masterpieces from Papua New Guinea and New Ireland. 

In the Oceanic Art, African Art, and American Indian Art collections, important modern and contemporary artists are represented; reflecting the continued but evolving artistic practice of indigenous artists and cultures. Learn more about the Native Arts Department on the American Indian Art collection page.

Support Group

The Douglas Society is the support group of the Native Arts Department at the Denver Art Museum.  It was founded in 1974 to advance the understanding and appreciation of the museums Native Arts collections. The Douglas Society organizes lectures and meetings with distinguished scholars, native artists, and performers. Members also enjoy special workshops and programs, receive a quarterly newsletter, and can attend the annual dinner. For more information, visit www.douglassociety.org. Read more about it and all DAM support groups on the Support Groups page.

Current Staff

  • Nancy Blomberg , Chief Curator and Curator of Native Arts
  • John Lukavic, Associate Curator of Native Arts
  • Eric Berkemeyer, Curatorial Assistant of Native Arts
  • Heather Nielsen, Master Teacher

Past Staff

  • Edgar C. McMechan, Curator
  • Frederic H. Douglas, Curator
  • Kate Peck Kent, Assistant Curator
  • Royal B. Hassrick, Curator
  • Norman Feder, Curator
  • Richard Conn, Curator
  • David Irving, Assistant Curator
  • Ryntha Johnson, Assistant Curator
  • Moyo Okediji, Assistant Curator
  • Roger Echo-Hawk, Assistant Curator
  • Polly Nordstrand, Associate Curator

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