Borneo 2007: Three European Exhibitions (1)

Article excerpt

The year 2007 appears to have been an exceptionally good one for Borneo in Europe. Two exhibitions were held in France, and one in Switzerland, which prominently featured the big island, its forests, its peoples, its cultures and its arts. Here follows a brief review of those three events.

Borneo ... Dayak et Punan. Peuples de la foret tropicale humide, Musee d'Art et d'Archeologie, Laon, France, 25 November 2006-11 March 2007.

The beautiful city of Laon, only a short distance by train or by car from Paris, offers a large variety of first-class monuments, including its famous early-Gothic cathedral, which served as a model for the builders of the cathedrals of Reims and Chartres. The old city is perched on a narrow plateau and surrounded with fortifications and medieval gates. The Musee d'Art et d'Archeologie is housed in a Templar Knights' commanderie, next to an early-twelfth-century chapel. It displays one of France's most important collections of Greek antiquities, a large collection of Gallo-Roman jewelry, weaponry, and bronze (including superb fibulae), as well as a collection of fifteenth-to-nineteenth-century paintings, sculpture, and furniture (including the world-famous retable of L 'Annonciation).

Members of the Institute for Research on Southeast Asia (IRSEA), Antonio Guerreiro and Bernard Sellato, with the assistance of Ph.D. student Nicolas Cesard and zoologist Didier Boussarie, have guest-curated an exhibition on Borneo, focusing on both the natural history and ethnography of the island. About 160 artifacts were exhibited, including thirteen ethnographic objects on loan from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, and a number of zoological and botanical specimens, as well as iconographic items--a large number of recent field photographs, old books, maps, engravings and drawings, stamps and postcards, and posters.

The exhibition's official opening was held on November 24, 2006, in the presence of representatives of the city's mayor and of the embassies of the Federation of Malaysia and the Republic of Indonesia. On March 3, a guided tour of the exhibition was organized by Antonio Guerreiro and Nicolas Cesard and, in the same afternoon, three films on various themes (Dayak ethnography, nature and culture conservation) were screened at the MAL (Maison des Arts et des Loisirs) movie hall, near the Museum, until 19:30. The local press (L'Union) advertised the event and reported on it the next day.

Financial assistance from the Maison Asie Pacifique, Marseilles, is gratefully acknowledged, as well as invaluable help from the museum curator, Caroline Jorrand, and her friendly staff.


Patong. Le grandi figure scolpite dei popoli del Borneo, Museo deile Culture & Galleria Gottardo, Lugano, Switzerland, 23 March-25 August 2007.

The Brignoni collection of primitive art, consisting of about 660 pieces, was donated in 1985 to the City of Lugano. After organizing a preliminary exhibition (1986), the city decided to host the collection at the Heleneum, a superb rico-classic villa, where it set up the Museo delle Culture Extraeuropee, inaugurated in 1989--and later renamed Museo delle Culture, now headed by Dr. Francesco Paoio Campione. Another exhibition, in 1996, was devoted to Brignoni as artist and collector, a man con passione d'arte e con l'occhio dell'artista. The 2007 exhibition, in which half of the pieces are presented for the first time to the public, was organized thanks to an agreement between the City of Lugano and the Banca del Gottardo, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the bank.

Serge Brignoni, born in 1903, studied the arts in Bern, Milano, and Berlin, then resided in Paris from 1923 until 1940. There he got acquainted with Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, and many others in the Surrealist movement, and became part of the Italiens de Paris, with, among others, Giacometti and De Chirico. …