HEDLUND, Roy James; WEBB, L.R.
Photograph album documenting the field-collecting of indigenous artefacts in New Guinea and the Solomons, 1962.
Quarto size ring-bound album (290 x 240 mm), the cover inscribed ‘Hedlund and Webb / 1962’, containing 110 original black and white photographs, all in format 82 x 105 mm or 105 x 82 mm, documenting the field-collecting by Americans Roy James Hedlund and L.R. Webb of indigenous artefacts in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; every photograph bears Hedlund’s handwritten caption identifying location, type of object and often a collection date; there are also shots of the interior of Hedlund and Webb’s Wewak storehouse and of the arrival of 80 crates of Melanesian artefacts at Pier 41, San Francisco, in February 1963; among the hundreds of objects in these photographs are many important and rare items such as Kikori River gope boards, Turama River spirit carvings, a Solomons stone figure and nguzu-nguzu canoe charm, New Britain masks, figures by Sepik master carver Wambangu, Asmat shields and figures, Coastal Sepik masks, and an ancient Maprik wooden mask; there is also a shot of noted artists Diebenkorn, Bischoff and Lobdell with Hedlund in Oakland, 1962; the photographs have been protected in plastic sleeves and are in fine condition.
Roy James Hedlund was one of the most active field collectors of traditional artefacts throughout Melanesia during the 1960s. Regardless of our stance on the ethics of Hedlund’s modus operandi – some may describe it as pillaging and cultural theft, others as a legitimate form of commerce which satisfies an acquisitive and inquisitive Western art market – the fact remains that a large number of important examples of a wide variety of traditional objects which Hedlund acquired have found their way into major American collections, perhaps most notably the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Curators of museums and galleries worldwide have come to be increasingly concerned with the provenance and history of ownership of objects in their collections. This photograph album documenting Melanesian artefacts collected by Hedlund in 1962 represents an invaluable resource for curators and researchers interested in tracing the history of Oceanic art objects in public – or indeed, private – collections.