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Russell Kelty. Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices

The exhibition ‘Treasure Ships’, on view the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) from 13 June to 30 August, presents for the first time in Australia the story of European and Asian artistic exchange in the era known as the ‘spice age’, circa 1500–1800. The exhibition includes 300 works of art ranging from ceramics, paintings and the decorative arts to furniture, textiles, maps and shipwreck artefacts from the gallery’s permanent collection and on loan from collections around the world. Collectively, the objects illustrate the enduring legacy of Europe’s demand for spices such as pepper from India, cloves and nutmeg from Maluku in the late 15th century. This trade led to the discovery of new maritime routes around the Cape of Good Hope to connect with well-established trade networks in the Indian Ocean. Cosmopolitan port emporiums that developed at Goa, Batavia and Nagasaki catered to mercantile and ecclesiastical communities, provided access to a wealth of exotic natural products and fostered novel art forms that integrated both European and Asian motifs and techniques. 

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