The Artist in Tribal Society: Proceedings of a Symposium Held at the Royal Anthropological Institute


The visually exotic is no longer strange. The public has come to look at objects from foreign cultural backgrounds with a new eye. This growing awareness of value in the unfamiliar is directly reflected in the current vogue for art books. Congo sculpture and paintings by Australian aborigines are as common on the crowded shelves of the book shops as the periods of Brancusi or the work and life of Picasso. Not only are catalogues of exhibitions profusely illustrated but collections of photographs appear on all manner of subjects with various amounts of accompanying texts. If the world of art has become less parochial, what is the implication of these new materials? What will we learn from Maori house posts and the bronze castings of Benin?

These were the questions which prompted the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland to accept a recommendation asking that a special committee be formed to plan a symposium on some aspect of primitive art. The Committee consisted of Mr. William Fagg, Mr. Charles P. Mountford, Mrs. Margaret Webster Plass, Sir Herbert Read and Dr. Marian W. Smith.

The Committee agreed almost immediately that the actual plans for the symposium would have to revolve around available scholars. The persons intimately concerned with primitive art seemed to be either those who had had direct contact with tribal groups still engaged in creative activities, or those who had had extensive experience in handling and considering objects and who had in consequence developed certain ideas about tribal art. Although it was quickly decided that the main orientation of the symposium should be theoretical, it was unanimously felt that contributions representing such first-hand . . .

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • K. C. Murray
  • William Fagg
  • Herbert Read
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1961


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