Lynda Cunningham Lynda Cunningham By Paul Lewis Motivated by a desire to study other cultures before they were irretrievably changed, in her mid-20s Lynda Cunningham decided to take a job with American Airlines – which enabled her to travel cheaply – and set out for Papua New Guinea. The first trip in 1966 crystalized Lynda’s passion for the art and people of New Guinea and Oceania, and many other trips followed over the next 25 years. For Lynda it was crucial to try to relate to and understand the cultures of the people from whom she acquired objects. In 1972 she held an exhibition in New York entitled Ancestors and Dream Time People: Art of New Guinea, the New Hebrides, and Australia. In the exhibition catalogue Lynda wrote of the importance to her of recording ‘the usage of the objects as they were explained to me.’ Among other objects which Lynda collected in situ are a Hunstein Mountains hook figure in the Jolika Collection at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (Meyer, Oceanic Art, 1995, p. 264), and the Korewori River slit gong on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (acc. no. 2013.603), which Lynda gifted to the Museum in 2013. Alongside the first-hand knowledge acquired through her work in the field, Lynda has a passionate interest in the books and historical documents which explore the art and history of world cultures. In her New York bookstore and gallery, Oceanic Primitive Arts, one could find a rare first edition of Bougainville’s Le voyage autour du monde alongside the Kanak roof finial from his collection, which Lynda acquired from the George Ortiz auction at Sotheby’s in 1978. Displayed among the latest publications and historical rarities were both objects which Lynda had collected in situ, and pieces from the great collectors. Lynda sold the book business in 1987 and a few years later would largely retire as an active dealer of oceanic art. She remained an advisor, a keen observer, and a collector, occasionally adding pieces to her collection, for example, the Hooper huaki, the magnificent Maori Chief’s Cloak which is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia (acc. no. NGA 2007.616). Lynda pursued other interests – her love of nature, and the Craftsman furniture which complimented the beauty and integrity of her collection of Oceanic Art. Above all she never lost her enthusiasm and passion for the forms and meanings of Oceanic Art, and her understanding of what these objects meant to the people who made them.