Now and Then: Innovation and Continuity in Asmat Art

Spring 2016 Exhibit

Date & Time:

Monday, February 1, 2016
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
February 1 – July 31, 2016


The Gallery, Anderson Student Center

Like all art traditions, the art of the Asmat people of southwestern New Guinea is continually changing.  Whether over the millennia-long history of its own indigenous development or the more rapid changes resulting from more than half a century of engagement with the broader global community, Asmat artists have continually transformed and adapted the nature and imagery of their works to meet the spiritual, physical, and economic needs of the community. Both through the perpetuation and adaptation of customary art forms, such as ancestor (bis) poles and shields, and the invention of novel art forms such as ajour (openwork) carvings and narrative sculpture, Asmat art and artists continue to develop and grow. 

Asmat artists today create works that reflect both continuity and innovation, drawing on the imagery and skills passed down to them by their ancestors to produce contemporary works of continuing relevance to their lives.  Presenting both customary and contemporary art works from the museum’s collection, this exhibition explores the diverse ways in which contemporary Asmat artists at once perpetuate, and creatively adapt, ancestral imagery to create novel compositions and art forms. It also looks at how artists today have adapted more traditional art forms to address their own needs as well as those of their communities, and the global art market today. 

Curated by Dr. Eric Kjellgren, AMAA@UST Director
Assisted by Jennifer Smith and Elizabeth Madden, Art History Graduate Students

Reception: Friday, February 19th, 5 - 7 p.m. 

Viewing Hours: 
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Monday – Wednesday
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.  Thursday
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.  Friday
Noon. – 4 p.m.     Saturday and Sunday
Free and open to the public.
Parking is available in the Anderson Parking Facility, corner of Grand and Cretin Avenues.
Gallery location and parking directions:

The Gallery is handicap accessible. For accessibility requests: (651) 962-6315.

Untitled: The Banyan Tree, by Ernest Dicem, before 2000, Asmat people, Ayam and Simai villages, Wood, paint, fiber, feathers, seeds, H: 97.8 cm (38.5 in), AMAA@UST T2012.03.005,Gift of Bishop Alphonse Sowada


All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.