Fondazione Giancarlo Ligabue
Power and Prestige: Symbols of Command in Oceania

Venice, Italy


Clubs are often perceived somewhat reductively as weapons, created solely for combat, and yet they represent so much more. With their intricate decorations and images of divinities they are symbols of authority and strength, but are also powerful works of art. Power and Prestige: Symbols of Command in Oceania, a new temporary exhibition, unlocks their deeper meanings and celebrates the artistic achievements of the region’s island cultures.



Organized by the Giancarlo Ligabue Foundation of Venice, in collaboration with the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, and designed by Ubis Design Workgroup, the exhibition draws together 130 fine examples of these ‘command sticks’ from across Oceania. Together they form an impressive display that embodies the innate power and sculptural beauty of these culturally complex objects.

Goppion previously provided 24 showcases for the Giancarlo Ligabue Foundation in 2016, which have since been used in seven temporary exhibitions at major museums across Italy. For Power and Prestige, two special new showcases have also been created to complete the set-up and accommodate the sheer number of works on display. The showcases provide a fitting stage for these magnificent items, all of which demonstrate the superb craftsmanship and rich imaginations of their makers. Visitors can admire elegant pieces with detailed engravings, and study intricate inlays using shells, ivory, jade, wood and whalebone.

The exhibition is curated by Professor Steven Hooper, Director of the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, who also publishes the exhibit catalog, with Alex Bernand. All works have been chosen for their quality, rarity and historical significance. Collectively they contribute to a fresh narrative that reveals the cultural contexts of their creation and use, and explores the relationships between the island cultures represented. Visitors will discover they share surprising similarities as well as distinct differences.

The works displayed in Goppion’s showcases are drawn from prestigious European collections, both public and private. Among the main lending institutions, in addition to the Musée du quai Branly, are The British Museum (London, UK), English Heritage, Audley End House and Gardens (Essex, UK), Musée d'Histoire Naturelle (Lille, France), Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (University of Cambridge, UK), Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (Leiden/Amsterdam, Netherlands), National Museums of Scotland (Edinburgh), and Royal Museum for Central Africa/AfricaMuseum (Tervuren, Belgium).