Traditional Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
A standard museological category for traditional art and architectural works made by indigenous artists from the geographic regions of Africa, the pre-Columbian Americas, Australia, and the islands of the South Pacific. The term and the treatment of objects described as such have a controversial history, as many non-Western art objects have been treated as archeological, rather than art historical, artifacts, appearing in natural history museums to this day. Efforts to include this artwork in international exhibitions began in the 1980s with such exhibitions as 1984’s “Primitivism,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in which traditional African objects were placed alongside the 20th-century European works they influenced, including those by Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst. The 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre,” at Centre Pompidou, Paris, sought to remedy the Eurocentrism surrounding modern art through a balanced presentation of artists spanning all continents but received criticism for its treatment of African and Oceanic artists. Today artists rarely identify with these blanket categories, instead opting for more accurate and specific terms like Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations, Micronesian, Polynesian, or any of the 54 countries and nationalities or hundreds of ethnic groups in the continent of Africa.