News & events > Oceania exhibition opens in London
29 Sep 2018 - 10 Dec 2018

Oceania exhibition opens in London


The Royal Academy in London presents a major exhibition - Oceania. Marking 250 years since Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific, the show celebrates the dazzling and diverse art of the region of Oceania, from the historic to the contemporary.

Ahead of the exhibition opening, representatives from across Oceania, artists and supporters joined a procession through London to the RA. They were met by a ceremonial welcome from Ngāti Rānana, the London Māori Club, who represented the RA as the tangata whenua (hosts). While a private blessing took place in the exhibition galleries, there were performances outside from different countries of Oceania. Watch video

The year is 1768, and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.

The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition will reveal these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.

Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change.

Oceania has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

Entry to the exhibition is free for New Zealand and Pacific Island passport holders. Show passport at exhibition entrance. No need to book in advance. 

After London, the exhibition moves to Paris at Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, where Océanie runs from March 12 - 7 July, 2019. Further information


Lisa Reihana,In pursuit of Venus [infected] (detail), 2015-2017.

Single-channel video, Ultra HD, colour, 7.1 sound, 64 minutes. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Patrons of the Auckland Art Gallery, 2014. Additional support from Creative New Zealand and NZ at Venice Patrons and Partners © Image courtesy of the artist and ARTPROJECTS.