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Article

While the main public art museums in Australia are to be found in its capital cities (see Australia §XII), throughout Australia there are over 160 regional art galleries, which are owned and funded by local and state governments. As well as displaying their own permanent collections, these art galleries have extensive exhibition programmes that include major national and international travelling exhibitions, together with community-based art shows. As Australia’s landmass is greater than Europe but with a relatively small population (22.68 million), this is an excellent way of taking art to people in country towns, isolated communities, and the hinterland of major cities. Regional galleries have outstanding art collections, acquired through philanthropic endowment and the Federal Government’s taxation concessions for cultural gifts. These collections constitute a significant percentage of the country’s Distributed National Art Collection and include key paintings in the history of Australian art.

Although some regional galleries date from the 19th century, there were still only seven in existence in ...

Article

[tribal art]

The market for ‘tribal art’ emerged in the first decades of the 20th century. By way of avant-garde artists and pioneering dealers, African and Oceanic art slowly became accepted as ‘art’—with its inclusion in the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2000 as a decisive endorsement. Initially, it was referred to as ‘primitive art’—alluding to an early ‘primitive’ stage in human development; later replaced by the equally biased ‘tribal art’. While still used widely among dealers and collectors (for want of a better word and being conveniently short), the term ‘tribe’, or its derivative ‘tribal’, is frowned upon by the scholarly community.

The foundations of the tribal art market were laid at the turn of the 20th century. European powers colonized large overseas territories in both Africa and Oceania and, along with other commodities, there arrived ethnographic artefacts. Europeans had conducted coastal trade with many African regions over centuries, but systematic explorations of the continental hinterland did sometimes not take place until the first decades of the 20th century. These resulted in the discovery of previously unknown cultures whose ritual objects, such as masks, were displayed during world’s fairs and colonial exhibitions. Many of these objects ended up in newly established museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, outside Brussels. Vigorous competitors in the collection of ethnographic objects in both Africa and Oceania, these museums became the leading players in the early phases of the tribal art market’s development. Next to these large-scale official collecting activities, colonial, military, or missionary personnel also brought home exotic objects....

Article

Noémie Goldman and Kim Oosterlinck

Term for the return of lost or looted cultural objects to their country of origin, former owners, or their heirs. The loss of the object may happen in a variety of contexts (armed conflicts, war, colonialism, imperialism, or genocide), and the nature of the looted cultural objects may also vary, ranging from artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, to human remains, books, manuscripts, and religious artefacts. An essential part of the process of restitution is the seemingly unavoidable conflict around the transfer of the objects in question from the current to the former owners. Ownership disputes of this nature raise legal, ethical, and diplomatic issues. The heightened tensions in the process arise because the looting of cultural objects challenges, if not breaks down, relationships between peoples, territories, cultures, and heritages.

The history of plundering and art imperialism may be traced back to ancient times. Looting has been documented in many instances from the sack by the Romans of the Etruscan city of Veii in ...