, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 219-230

High art as tourist art, tourist art as high art: Comparing the New Guinea Sculpture Garden at Stanford University and Sepik River tourist art

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This paper compares two contemporary aesthetic expressions: tourist art from the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea and the New Guinea Sculpture Garden at Stanford University. Both aesthetic expressions undermine the conventional categories that classify art. Sepik River tourist art is motivated not by the drive to lend individual, subjective experience a material expression but by monetary desire. The New Guinea Sculpture Garden was expressly created so that Sepik artisans could expand beyond the confines of village traditions and create unfettered aesthetic expressions. But seemingly inauthentic Tourist Art actually represents many of the ideals normally ascribed to Western masterpieces, or High Art. Conversely, the High Art of the Sculpture Garden in many respects resembles inauthentic reproductions and the tenacity of traditional forms. Both tourist art and the sculpture Garden, however, have one key quality in common: they rupture conventional artistic cattegories.