Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Lifestyle - Tanya MacNaughton

IT has taken five years of hard work be­tween teams at Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) and Art Gallery of SA, but Trea­sure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices has fi­nally opened at AGWA.

“It’s a mas­sively com­plex un­der­tak­ing with many dif­fer­ent threads and sto­ries to tell about this won­der­ful art in the age of spices,” Art Gallery of SA Asian art as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor Rus­sell Kelty said.

“The ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes over 260 ob­jects from Por­tu­gal, In­dia, Sin­ga­pore, Amer­ica and largely from Aus­tralian public and pri­vate col­lec­tions.

“It’s only with the sup­port of AGWA we were able to bring this ex­hi­bi­tion to both venues. They’ve done it quite beau­ti­fully .”

Af­ter ex­hibit­ing Trea­sure Ships in SA, Kelty spent sev­eral weeks in Perth in­stalling the show with AGWA his­tor­i­cal and mod­ern art cu­ra­tor Melissa Harp­ley.

He said the ex­hi­bi­tion showed the cul­tural, spir­i­tual and artis­tic ex­change dur­ing the era from 1500 to 1800 at ma­jor ports Goa, Malacca, Ma­cau, Na­gasaki and Batavia, which were set up by the Por­tuguese, Dutch and English.

Although these in­ter-Asian trade routes, from the In­dian Ocean stretch­ing from In­dia through In­done­sia all the way to Na­gasaki, had been formed long be­fore Euro­peans ar­rived.

“It por­trays the op­u­lence of this era fos- tered be­cause of the in­ter­est in spices in Europe as lux­ury condi­ments,” Kelty said.

“Un­til this point, Euro­peans hadn’t seen any­thing quite like the porce­lain, lac­quer and tex­tiles from China, In­dia and Ja­pan.

“They were quite as­ton­ished by the beauty of them and didn’t pro­duce some­thing of sim­i­lar qual­ity in Europe un­til the 18th cen­tury.”

Kelty said one of the high­lights was the wealth of Chris­tian art cre­ated pri­mar­ily in In­dia and Na­gasaki, show­ing the in­ter­ac­tion with lo­cal artists por­tray­ing the spir­i­tual fer­vour of post-Protes­tant ref­or­ma­tion Catholi­cism in Asia.

“The rel­e­vance to WA au­di­ences is very much played out in this ex­hi­bi­tion as Aus­tralia is re­ally the last place this dis­cov­ery and ex­cite­ment of the age washes up on the shores,” he said.

“A key com­po­nent is the en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween North­ern Aus­tralia Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties and Makas­san In­done­sian traders. We may live in the Asian cen­tury but we’ve had a re­la­tion­ship with Asian long be­fore the past 10 to 20 years.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion is on un­til Jan­uary 31, 2016, tick­ets at www.trea­sure­ships.com.au.

Visi­tors can down­load the Trea­sure Ships app fea­tur­ing an in­ter­ac­tive map, ex­clu­sive arte­fact in­for­ma­tion and in-ex­hibit aug­mented re­al­ity ac­ti­va­tions.

Tanya MacNaughton

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d444635

Cu­ra­tors Rus­sell Kelty and Melissa Harp­ley all set for Art Gallery of WA’s sum­mer ex­hi­bi­tion Trea­sure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices.

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