Art of the Pacific Islands

Tonga artist working in Fiji. <em>Breast Ornament (Civavonovono)</em>. 19th century.

Tonga artist working in Fiji. Breast Ornament (Civavonovono). 19th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Alan Wurtzburger, BMA 1955.251.160

The BMA has a small, but compelling collection of art from the Pacific Islands. Considered among the best in the U.S, these holdings embody the vibrant cultural traditions of Melanesia and Polynesia, and feature a rich cross section of fine objects such as jewelry, ornaments, and tapa cloths.

Of particular interest is a finely carved lizard of dark wood and shell from Easter Island, a stunning battle pectoral created from hundreds of Nassa shells, which highlights Middi art of New Britain, and an 18th century royal Hawaiian necklace—one of the best of its type worldwide.

A highlight of the collection is a breast ornament embellished with small birds and stars that figured as insignia of prestige for the Tonga of the Fiji Islands. Featuring whale ivory and pearl shell design, it is recognized as one of the largest of its kind.

Please note: The Pacific Islands collection is not currently on view due to the BMA's multi-year, $28 million renovation.

Friends of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific and the Americas (FAPA)

Join FAPA to meet fellow art lovers and learn more about the BMA’s collection of art from Africa, the Ancient Americas, and the Pacific Islands.