Bruce Lawes - Historical Figures In Oceanic Art Bruce Lawes By Crispin Howarth Australian Bruce Lawes (1926–2011) was one of earliest field collectors in Papua New Guinea and was dedicated to collecting artifacts for their aesthetics. Lawes arrived in New Guinea in 1947 and worked as a patrol officer in New Ireland. Less than a decade later he left administrative life, moved to the Abelam area and lived as a trader based in Maprik. In 1955 Lawes assisted Dr. Alfred Bühler of the Basel Museum, who assembled a collection of 4,000 Abelam works. Through this experience Lawes saw the commercial interest in New Guinea art and began to collect intensively over the next two decades. A gentleman of the Krosmeri River, Angoram District. Administration patrols had not visited this tribe despite visiting other tribes only about twelve miles away since early 1930. Photo by Bruce Lawes about 1959, courtesy Robin Hodgson. Lawes was reputed to have bought and sold over 14,000 artifacts during this time. He collected from many areas of New Guinea, but it was really the Sepik region which Lawes personally loved. Through his enthusiasm Lawes contributed to the growing recognition of New Guinea art. He built up a large clientele of international dealers and collectors, but perhaps his most important achievement was the exhibition which toured America, New Guinea Art: The Bruce Lawes Collection, in 1977–1978. The three Sawos figures collected by Oscar Meyer shown here at the riverside reading for loading on the cargo canoe. Bruce Lawes is seen in a thoughtful mood in the center of the photo taken by Oscar in 1957. Copyright Oscar Meyer Archives, Galerie Meyer-Oceanic Art-Paris He had an informed eye but always modestly described himself as neither an authority nor an expert but as an enthusiast. But it was plain to anyone spending a brief moment of time with Lawes that he knew a lot and his lifelong passion was infectious. Lawes supplied dealers during the 1960s, such as Los Angeles–based dealer Harry Franklin. Objects he collected are now in many of the major institutions across the world. Lawes described New Guinea art as having a charming strength and he was philosophical about the wonderful objects he had parted with. He once wrote, “I enjoyed those pieces to the utmost while I had them and then passed them on so others might enjoy as I had.” Adapted from “Bruce Lawes” by Crispin Howarth, Oceanic Art Society Newsletter, Vol. 17, No. 1, Page 4. By kind permission of the Oceanic Art Society. Cover of the exhibition catalog for the 1977-1978 circulating exhibition organized by The Western Associations of Art Museums, Oakland California.