For 30 years Todd Barlin has been a collector, scholar and dealer of Oceanic Art. Due to poor health and a desire to see these artworks find new homes, the collection is to be sold through Theodore Bruce Auctions. The Barlin Collection, Part One, will be offered for sale in our Sydney rooms on August 17, 2015.

Todd Barlin first encountered Oceanic art at the Auckland Museum in 1985 while on holiday from his home in the United States. He felt overcome by the beauty and magic of the artworks from the Pacific Islands. When he arrived in Australia, a friend suggested that he should visit Papua New Guinea and see the people and artists in person. This was advice that changed his life forever. A two month trip to the New Guinea Highlands and the Sepik River proved transformative. Todd was overwhelmed by the kindness and warmth of the people and how happy and confident they were in their day-to-day lives.

That first trip to Papua New Guinea ignited a lifelong passion for the Pacific peoples; their art and their amazingly diverse cultures. Over the next 25 years Todd made over 40 trips to Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. He would stay in remote villages for days, weeks or even months at a time. It was a chance for Todd to get to know the people in their traditional environments, and for them to get to know him. He lived as they did, ate what they had each day and also suffered their problems such as malaria and dengue fever. This was a magical time – before the internet, mobile phones or TV exposed remote villages to the outside world. Todd often travelled for six or eight months a year to remote areas and during that time it was as if the rest of the world ceased to exist.

Todd was often lucky to be in the right place at the right time to witness the preparation for ceremonies and the making of artworks. He was able to record and document extraordinary traditional ceremonies. Todd spent many months living with diverse cultural groups including the Asmat, the Mimika, the Marind Anim on the South Coast of West Papua, as well as with the traditional peoples of Lake Sentani and Geelvink Bay along the North Coast of West Papua. He was also fortunate to spend time in the Sepik River, Southern Highlands and Enga Provinces of Papua New Guinea and remote villages in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Todd started dealing in tribal art in 1987 and operated for the last 22 years from his Oceanic Arts Australia Gallery in Paddington. In 1995 he became the Tribal Art Expert for Sotheby’s Australia and stayed in this position until 1999, although he continued to build his own collection of Oceanic art. Collecting is a passion that needs intense motivation to make a great collection. Besides the pieces that Todd collected in the field many of the artworks in the Todd Barlin collection were acquired in Australia from important historical collections, auctions and by trade or gift. He collected what appealed visually, and what excited and expanded his imagination. Todd experiences artworks in a physical way. The artworks that he likes best are inspired by images from dreams and are highly abstract.

Todd has worked with many dynamic people in the Pacific Arts and Culture Community. He has provided field documentation and artworks for several important international exhibitions: the Asmat & Mimika in 1996 and The Marind Anim in 1999, both at The Museum of African and Oceanic Art, in Paris, which is now The Musee du Quai Branly. In Australia Todd organised an exhibition for the 2000 Sydney Olympics Art Festival, “Monumental Sculptures of West Papua” that was visited by guest from around the world. Artworks collected by Todd are displayed in major institutions around the world, such as the iconic Asmat sculptures in the South Australian Museum and the Australian Museum in Sydney and also the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Todd Barlin Collection is the largest collection of high quality Oceanic art to be sold in Australia for many decades. It represents a lifetime’s work of acquiring and documenting rare and exotic art works from a region that has undergone massive changes. Traditional ways of life have changed greatly over recent decades; especially in the last thirty years, and many of the pieces in the collection are historical items: artefacts from ceremonies that are no longer conducted, from cultures that have been transformed by globalisation. The Barlin collection, with so many artworks collected in the field by Todd, presents a unique opportunity for collectors to acquire works of great beauty with an impeccable provenance.

For enquiries please contact Aboriginal and Oceanic Art Specialist, Jim Elmslie on 0407 913 870
[email protected]