Moriarty: Collecting Melanesia1854-1937 Greta North An excursion to the Museum of Victoria inspired a young Stanley (Stan) Gordon Moriarty’s passion for “tribal art,” whilst a 16-year-old student at the prestigious National Gallery School in Melbourne, Australia. As an artist, Moriarty appreciated the aesthetics of the material he encountered, and it led him to begin acquiring works from antique shops, commercial galleries, and auction houses to form his collection. Stan Moriarty painting a scene of New Guinea He established himself as a successful advertising “poster artist” and became the sole owner of the Snap Adds business in 1938 in Sydney, where he had been a partner. This allowed him to continue collecting locally and to steadily establish the financial reserves to embark on his first expedition to the Territories of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1961, when he was 55. Moriarty continued to utilize his skills as an artist and gifted photographer, and his career skills as a manufacturer of advertising material, to paint and print large scenes from photographs he had taken on his journeys, creating catalogues of his collection, and reproducing his photographs as preview booklets to promote his business and PNG. Snap Adds Pty. Ltd. preview booklet cover promoting the three-colour printing process. Photograph by Stan Moriarty of Tambuan Masked Men, Tanbanum, Sepik River, N.G. A painting by Moriarty hangs above and to the right, amongst a display underneath Moriarty’s Sydney home, which includes the Initiation Mask from Kainantu, Eastern Highlands, now in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collection, and a Tambuan costume Moriarty’s initial pilgrimage to PNG was scheduled to be for three weeks; however his son Simon remembers “after a month and a half, we hadn’t heard from him, and then a letter came to say ‘I’m staying for a bit longer,’ and he arrived back six months later … another six months and he’d go back again, they seemed to get shorter after that but three or four times he was away for six months.” From this first voyage along the Sepik River and into the Maprik area (1), he established respectful and responsive working relationships with the villagers amongst whom word would rapidly spread as to the integrity of new visitors. Simon proposed that once someone learnt some of the dialects, as Moriarty did, it made a huge difference to their reception. On his second expedition, Moriarty travelled extensively through the Western and Southern Highlands and established Mount Hagen as his base for future trips, spending a combined period of about twelve months away over these first two adventures. (1) Photograph by Stan Moriarty from Snap Adds preview booklet, detail of A Highland Village Scene N.G. Photograph by Stan Moriarty from Snap Adds preview booklet A Wig Man of Porgera Western Highlands N.G. Headpiece is similar to Kembena (bullock-horn wig) Moriarty developed strong relationships with the Australian Patrol Officers (“Kiaps”), who allowed him to trek with them on some of the first government patrols into the more remote areas of the Highlands. Some of these communities had little or no contact with groups outside their own. Jim Specht, former Head of Anthropology at the Australian Museum, remarked that “Moriarty was going into areas where other collectors were not active.” Throughout his travels, he took remarkable photographs and made both film and sound recordings of his experiences. He travelled annually to New Guinea until his final trip in 1972. Photograph by Stan Moriarty of the Sing Sing groups assembling, capturing the vastness, glamour, and chaos of an early Mount Hagen cultural show Photograph by Stan Moriarty of a performance by the Fore Group from Ofafina Village in the Okapa District, Eastern Highlands Province, at a Highlands show in 1969. Items collected. Moriarty collected items from galleries in Port Moresby and the large Goroka and Mount Hagen cultural shows. The body decorations and associated material that had been used at the shows by performing groups were often sold to avoid the arduous task of transporting them back to their villages, which were some distance from these “Sing Sings.” Moriarty was not deterred from acquiring large, logistically challenging items to transport to Australia, such as the magnificent Gaheisi ceremonial dance banners collected from the Goroka Show in 1968 that are over two meters high. https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/281.1978/ Wahgi Valley shields with bold geometric designs are visible in this photo by Moriarty, with a close-up of one of the shields in the following image Wahgi Valley Shield (left) used in the performance at the Highlands Show Through the Agricultural Society, Moriarty’s involvement in New Guinea extended to his inclusion on the judging panel of the Mount Hagen show, which was by then one of the primary cultural-show centers. His wife Jean and their children, Petina and Simon, travelled with him on several visits, Simon three times—in 1963, 1965 and 1966. Simon observed that the shows at Mount Hagen and Goroka functioned on multiple levels and that they diffused tensions between hostile tribes and went on to become a tourist attraction. He explained that his father visited New Guinea in a period when change was, arguably, at its most rapid and that he was given some works by villagers that were the “last genuine examples of a dying art.” This gourd mask from Benabena near Goroka represents an ancestor spirit. Collected by Moriarty in 1964, it was lent to exhibitions at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum that year, to the 1966 Kellner exhibition, and was donated to the AGNSW in 1977. 1964 Goroka Show, bark-masked dancers from the Eastern Highlands A Wahgi figure similar to the one given to AGNSW is held above the dancers. Siani Group dancing holding Gerua boards, Eastern Highlands Moriarty made a conscious effort to collect examples not only for his own burgeoning collection but also with the intent of eventually donating to Museums and Galleries. Simon noted that though his father acquired pieces from areas such as New Britain through other collectors, he was most interested in the Highlands where he found a diversity of material. He stated that his father “just wanted people to see (the art) ... he collected in his own mind purely to keep their art going around … so it was not lost … he started giving to the Port Moresby collection in ’62 … he would get two and give one to the government … to keep their civilization (going), first choice to the Port Moresby Museum, the second to the Australian Museum, and the third to himself … sometimes they take work off people but never did it to Dad, because they knew he’d display it and he’d helped them so much …” Though this aided in his ability to secure Cultural Export licenses, as PNG’s cultural protection policies strengthened, and their enforcement escalated after the 1967 National Cultural Property Ordinance (2), there was a marked rise in the number of items being made for sale to an increasing tourist trade rather than being produced for ceremonial and cultural use. The Expanding Collection Moriarty displayed his collection in his home at Narraweena, nestled in the hills above the Northern Sydney Coast. As the collection grew, so too did the need for exhibition space. Subsequently a basement beneath the home was excavated and became a display area with the collection densely hung in cultural groupings and visible at every turn. Framed by a large Ambrym Island Ferntree figure, a room containing pieces from Vanuatu to the left and Sepik to the right. Moriarty utilised every possible part of the excavated space below the house for display. This room is visible in the previous image and in the photo with Tony Tuckson where he and Moriarty are surrounded by these Abelam figures from the East Sepik Region. Simon Moriarty said his father aimed to display each work with dignity. Moriarty was ever vigilant to opportunities to expose, educate, and enlighten the public to the extraordinarily rich material culture of PNG. He opened his home to artists, academics, and school and university groups who came to inspect his Oceanic collection, which he had grouped by region. Guests included the renowned Australian landscape painter Lloyd Rees; and Aboriginal artist Yirawala, who in 1971 was accompanied by filmmakers Cecil and Sandra Holmes and identified some of his own paintings in the display. Though known chiefly for his Highlands collection, Moriarty also amassed many works from the Sepik and Bismark Archipeligo. Pieces, mainly from New Ireland and New Britain, are displayed in an alcove to the right of the Ambryn Island Ferntree figure. After a 1964 article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Moriarty’s collection, actress Gwen Plumb asked him to appear on her radio show. Prominent artists William Dargie and Russell Drysdale visited on behalf of the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board the following year on 17 October 1965, to discuss how they could promote Australian Aboriginal and PNG art in Australia. His Highland collection gathered a reputation for being one of the finest in the world, which saw scholars such as Christian Kauffmann and Douglas Newton make regular stopovers at Moriarty’s home on their visits to Australia. In 1974, American anthropologist Gilbert Herdt, who had extensively researched the Simbari Anga in the Highlands, visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ (AGNSW) Aboriginal and Melanesian Art Exhibition. He wrote to Moriarty, saying, “Having viewed all of the Melanesian exhibitions outstanding, save for the Basel collection, I am aware of what a very fine exhibition Mr. Moriarty possesses, and indeed, I am quite impressed by the extent of his Highlands collection, which is so little known.” (3) Moriarty’s astute eye for choosing the most beguiling of items was unwavering. Throughout his years as a dedicated collector, the quality of the material he attained remained consistent, much of his collection visually stunning and astounding, and it was profoundly influential on Australian abstract artists at the time. From 1957 to 1973, Anthony (Tony) Tuckson was the Deputy Director at AGNSW, and a serious, private artist. Tony Tuckson (left) and Stan Moriarty (right) sitting amongst a section of Moriarty’s Abelam display under his house at Narraweena. Photograph Margaret Tuckson Like Moriarty, Tuckson first came across Aboriginal Art as a student and shared Moriarty’s belief that the works were indeed art. The visitor book from Moriarty’s home records Tuckson’s first encounter with the Moriarty collection on 17 October 1965. The Tuckson-curated Melanesian Art exhibition in 1966 borrowed heavily from Moriarty’s collection and led to extensive donations to that Gallery. Tuckson went on to design the Tribal Art Galleries at AGNSW, which opened in 1974 and consisted largely of Moriarty’s collection in the Melanesian section and led to further gifts. Tuckson, however, did not see the completed installation due to his death in 1973, and Margaret Tuckson felt the donations to AGNSW after this date were made in his memory, due to their strong friendship. Moriarty’s commitment for his collection to not just be represented but also displayed in major Australian Institutional collections was unwavering and always informed his choice of museums to receive his donations. His Victorian heritage, involvement in the Anthropological Society, and the vision he shared with staff, ensured that large quantities of some of his most culturally significant collections were donated by Moriarty and his family. They are now housed in the Museum of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Museum, and AGNSW. Committed to sharing the material culture of New Guinea and the Pacific, Moriarty also granted both long-term and short-term loans to exhibitions at public institutions, universities, and festivals in Australia and overseas. Cataloguing the Collection By the time he presented the NATIVE ART loan exhibition at Gallery Stephen Kellner in 1966, Moriarty’s collection was already substantial and included pieces in that catalogue with “M” (Melanesian) numbers including up to M1544. A significant selection of his Australian Aboriginal (marked “A”) and his Polynesian (“P”) collections from New Zealand and Hawaii were also on display. His influence in the local tribal arts community was evident with the show being opened by both Tony Tuckson, Deputy Director at the AGNSW, and David Moore, Curator of Anthropology of The Australian Museum. By 1970, he saw the need to catalogue his remaining collection as by then it numbered into the thousands. A disciplined record keeper, and aware of the significance of his endeavor, Moriarty had kept concise notebooks of his journeys and items collected, diarizing their location and cultural significance. The collection was meticulously catalogued over several years with information transferred from his field diaries onto A5 catalogue cards. Details included the provenance of items he had acquired through galleries, dealers, and major Sing Sings such as the Goroka and Mount Hagen shows. Black-and-white photos, which were often taken either at the collection point or when packing the items for transportation, were attached to the cards. The catalogue cards and accompanying photographic negatives for both institutional and privately owned items now chiefly reside in the archives and libraries of those major institutions, and their corresponding items retain a Moriarty-assigned number. Whilst not all items in the collection were assigned an individual reference number, as they were considered incidental or of a similar nature to another piece, the majority were. On occasion they also contain the number allocated by another collector from whom Moriarty acquired the item. This Trobriand Island sculpture of a pig with lime-filled incisions includes a detachable ancestral figure (far right) which his daughter Petina used to chew on as a small child as she sat and played on the back of the pig. Indents are visible on the top of the ancestral figure’s head. Though privately owned, the catalogue card for this item remains in the archives of the Australian Museum and references Petina. The Trobriand Island pig sculpture is numbered M330 on its belly. The cards remain a valuable record, allowing insight into his collecting patterns, provenance, and they give ethnographic notes and details of the work. Though they don’t contain all the notes made in his diaries, they often distinguish whether Moriarty collected the items in the field, through galleries and auctions, or if they had been sold or given to family members, and they recognize researchers who assisted with cataloguing the collection. As his collecting patterns became more focused, and he began to favor the older, more-decorated items in his collection, Moriarty was known to auction his works and exchange or sell pieces with collector friends such as art-dealer Stephen Kellner. Whilst much of the collection was given to institutions, Moriarty did have significant collection sales to consolidate his personal collection. Jim Specht commented on Moriarty’s collection patterns as being of “bowerbird behaviour” with a totally “eclectic approach.” The first auction of Moriarty’s Oceanic collection, prior to his death in 1978, was held at Geoff K. Gray auction house on 17 and 18 November 1976, after deciding the collection was too big after it had been fully catalogued. The accompanying catalogue, introduced by Moriarty’s friend Tom Ellis, espouses Moriarty’s scrupulous adherence to export requirements and his “deep artistic perception, and his sincere regard for the forms of art held dear by the local people.” (4) Trobriand Island clubs and Papuan Gulf Material New Guinea Stone-headed clubs and shield from Upper and Middle Sepik When we discussed the aesthetic of the New Guinea Highlands section of the AGNSW’s collection, Jim Specht said “you look at the Highlands collection he (Moriarty) gave to the Art Gallery; that was an outstanding collection and still is. It was one of the first collections made on the Highlands. It was the first time we ever saw a lot of those constructions.” In her 2014 exhibition at AGNSW, “Plumes and Pearlshells: Art of the New Guinea Highlands,” curator Natalie Wilson paid respect to Moriarty’s legacy. Wilson researched and displayed some gems from the AGNSW Moriarty collection and ensured their cultural integrity—holding the items’ place as being as visually significant as any other artwork in the Gallery’s collection. Moriarty’s legacy is to have preserved significant items of material culture, which may have otherwise been forever lost, by ensuring large quantities were deposited in institutions. His collections now serve as vital examples of visual representation by peoples of many Oceanic regions and unveil a crucial history of the aesthetic evolution of these cultures. As archeologist Graeme Pretty, who often stayed with Moriarty, stated in correspondence to me in 1994, Moriarty made “important contributions to … ethnic art collections” and writing about his legacy would “relieve the conscience of many of us whose remembrance of him is fond and have owed this to him as a duty for some time.” (5) This Mundugumor Mask, was allocated M1 and, according to Jean Moriarty, was “always Stan’s favourite piece.” Photo private collector. Now in the collection of Musée du Quai Branly Footnotes: 1. Kellner, Stephen, Native Art, Gallery Stephen Kellner, Waverley, 15 September 1966. 2. Schmidt, Dirk “Establishing Museums in Developing Countries: The Case of Papua New Guinea” in Sidney M. Mead ed., Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania Australia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, The University of Hawaii, Honolulu, 1979, 399–400 3. Herdt, Gilbert H. to Stan Moriarty letter 26 September 1974, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archives 4. Gray Pty Ltd., Geoff K. Auction Sale of the Moriarty Collection of Pacific Art 1976. Foreword by T.W. Ellis 5. Pretty, Graeme to Greta North, letter, 20 April 1994 Adapted from the author’s research and 1993 master’s thesis “Moriarty: Collecting Melanesia,” this article references interviews with Simon Moriarty, Jim Specht, and Margaret Tuckson in 1993, and subsequent conversations with Jean Moriarty. M1 and M330 images from private collectors. All other images sourced from Jean Moriarty and Margaret Tuckson. Further Reading: Adam, Leonhard; Lindsay, Daryl, Primitive Art Exhibition, Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, 1943 Baily, John, The Art Gallery of South Australia Festival Exhibitions 1972, Special Exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia Seventh Adelaide Festival for Arts, 1972 Barrett, Charles; Kenyon, A.S. Australian Aboriginal Art, Melbourne. Published for the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria by H. J. Green, Govt. Printer, 1929, reprinted 1952 (issued in connection with the Exhibition of Australian Aboriginal Art), National Museum) Boylan, Chris; North, Greta, “Highlands Art of New Guinea,” The World of Tribal Art, Vol 4, No 3, Winter 1997/8, San Francisco, pp72–83 Moore, David R., Melanesian Art in the Australian Museum, Trustees of the Australian Museum, 1968. Moriarty, Stanley Gordon, Collection of S.G. Moriarty, Sydney, 1970. Specht, Jim, Pieces of Paradise, Fiona Doig ed., The Australian Museum Trust, Australian Natural History Supplement No. 1, 1988. Tuckson, J.A., Melanesian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, April 20–May 22, 1966. Tuckson, J.A., “Some Sepik River Art from the Collection” Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Vol 13, No 2, Art Gallery of New South Wales, April 1972. Tuckson, J.A., “Primitive Art Collection” Art in Australia, Vol. 10, No 1, July 1972 Tuckson, J.A., Aboriginal and Melanesian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1973. Wilson, Natalie (Ed.) Plumes and Pearlshells: The Art of the New Guinea Highlands, Sydney, 2014.