Guide to Papua New Guinea’s Best Museums and Art Galleries

Papua New Guinea has a thriving art scene
Papua New Guinea has a thriving art scene | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Manuela Galan
16 September 2020

Papua New Guinea’s culture, peppered with influences from several continents, finds expression in contemporary art. The country’s main artists are located in Port Moresby, and the country’s budding art scene shows a lot of promise. Visitors will be intrigued to see murals on important buildings across the country made by some of Papua’s most famous artists. Here is our guide to Papua New Guinea’s best galleries and museums.

Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery – Port Moresby

Art Gallery, Building, Museum
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Papua-New-Guinea, National Capitale District, Port Moresby, collection of National Museum and Art Gallery, pieces from Sepik and Maprik
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
One can only truly appreciate the country’s contemporary art after experiencing its origins and traditions. The Papua New Guinea National Museum & Art Gallery is the place to discover the country’s traditional wooden masks, canoes and sculptures. The main building itself is a stunning example of traditional architecture and art, with sculpted pillars and a thatched roof. The shapes and colours of those traditional works of art are echoed in today’s paintings and sculptures. The galleries house more than 7000 contemporary art collections, making it a unique resource for Papua New Guinean contemporary art. The museum is a wonderful source of information on the country’s history and heritage and will give visitors a better understanding of the messages behind Papua New Guinea’s contemporary art. The museum is present on three premises: the main museum at Waigani in Port Moresby, the Modern History Museum at Gordons in Port Moresby and the J.K. McCarthy Museum at Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province.

Art Stret Gallery – Port Moresby

Art Gallery
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Stret is probably the main contemporary art gallery in Port Moresby. Consisting of a gallery space and a production house, the space strives to bring local art as well as works from the whole country to the capital. A place where unknown and established artists meet, it seeks to promote quality and originality and to make the country’s art known to the general public. The collection includes watercolour, ink, charcoal, acrylic and gouache drawings and paintings as well as sculptures and pottery. Past exhibitions include famous artists like Martin Morububuna with his vibrant and, at times, cubist-looking watercolour works, Joe Nalo’s pastel and dream-like watercolour paintings and Heso Kiwi and Larry Santana’s ink and acrylic pieces. The Heso and Sonsexhibition of 2012 was particularly noteworthy, as it paid tribute to Heso Kiwi and also introduced his sons’ artistic work. Artists in their own right, their work consists of stunning black-and-white ink drawings that underline the history of the country’s contemporary art scene, while introducing its present legacy.

Gamba Krai Art – Port Moresby

Art Gallery, Shop
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Another contemporary art gallery located in Port Moresby, Gamba Krai Art, showcases and sells paintings, carvings, sculptures, bilums and baskets. Passionate about local, home-grown art, Gamba Krai promotes Papua New Guinea’s artists and ‘one of a kind’ works of art. ‘Gambakrai’, meaning ‘earthy colours’ in the Kuman language from the Chimbu Province of the country, alludes directly to the country’s local colours and roots.

Nathalie Le Riche – Kimbe

Memorial, Shop
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Papua New Guinea’s contemporary art is present across the country, thanks to some of its most famous artists contributing to the cityscapes with murals on main buildings. Artist Nathalie Le Riche is an important figure of Papua New Guinean contemporary art thanks to her paintings of the local flora, fauna and population in lively colors. Her shop is a wonderful place to see and buy some of her paintings and hand-painted souvenirs, but her artwork is also present at Hoskins Airport, where she painted murals, on the walls of the ANZ Bank in Kimbe and even on the Regional Pacific Kingair aircraft! You can spot other local artists’ work across the country if you pay attention: Larry Santana was commissioned to decorate Port Moresby’s Airport and the ANZAC Memorial. The country’s artistic energy is present everywhere, and visitors should keep their eyes peeled to experience it.

Luk Save Art Show – Port Moresby

Building
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Not a venue but an event, the Luk Save Art Show has allowed the country’s contemporary art scene to thrive and rise in quality and fame. Celebrating its 10th anniversary last year, the show’s now-renowned yearly catalogue allows art lovers to see the country’s progression over the last decade. The event requires world-famous artists as well as rising stars to present work they produced over the course of the last year. Since 2010, the art show ends with the NASFUND Art Award for the ‘best in show’. Through this event, Papua New Guinean artists have received funds and ever-increasing respect on the world stage. Last year, over 230 artworks were exhibited. Although not a traditional art venue, it is nonetheless an event that needs to be mentioned to do justice to the country’s contemporary art scene.

These recommendations were updated on September 16, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.