Nicolai Michoutouchkine (1929-2010)

Nicolai Michoutouchkine
Born Belfort, Russia 05/10/29
Died Port Vila, Vanuatu 02/05/10

Nicolai Michoutouckine an artist of international repute, a collector and promoter of Pacific arts for many decades passed away 2nd of May 2010. Michoutouchkine was a gregarious and generous person who dedicated much of his waking moments appreciating, collecting and creating art, during his journey he made friends easily and encouraged many across the world to appreciate the arts of the Pacific, both contemporary and traditional.

Of Russian heritage born in France, Michoutouckine studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, before serving in the army as a French citizen between 1957 and 1959 in New Caledonia. Michoutouckine settled in Vanuatu in the early 1960s and proceeded to build his Pacific arts collection through travelling and visiting most of the nations of the Pacific.

In New Caledonia he made the effort to visit less accessible areas and began acquiring objects and forming a collection. His collecting lead to visiting the Solomon Islands in 1963, Papua New Guinea in 1964 plus shorter visits to Tonga, Fiji and the Rotuma Islands. During 1965 Michoutouchkine continued travelling in search of art and inspiration to the Wallis, Austral and the Marquesas Islands before visiting Samoa and organizing a second, longer expedition to Papua New Guinea which extended into 1966. Travelling exhibitions of Pacific arts both traditional and contemporary from the N. Michoutouckine A. Pilioko foundation have been numerous within the Pacific region and further a field with the first (1967) international exhibition being held in France. Other international exhibitions where held in Malmö Sweden, France, Russia (including a touring exhibition Ethnography and Art of Oceania in 1980 seen by an audience of around 300,000 people), Australia, Japan and Mexico.

It could be said, one of the greatest and most enduring achievements of Michoutouchkine's life was establishing the N.Michoutouckine, A.Pilioko Foundation in 1977 at Esnaar, Port Vila. The Foundation is the resting place of much of objects collected in those previous years in several custom built buildings beside Erakor lagoon and sections of the collection continue to be shown in beautiful surroundings where artists over the past several decades could reside and be influenced by the collection. Between Michoutouckine and his life partner Aloi Pilioko, one of the most recognized artists from the Pacific, the foundation has created many workshops and events to assist and promote artists. The foundation was organized to foster an awareness of traditional arts for pacific artists and to preserve traditional objects and retain them in the Pacific region.

Michoutouchkine received the Chevalier des Arts et des Letters in 1975 and Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite in 1980.

In later life, Michoutouchkine organized for a permanent display of Pacific Arts at the Pasifika Asia Museum, Bali Indonesia where some 300 plus works from the foundation are on display today.

Link to Pima information on the Michoutouckine Pilioko Foundation.

Link to the Pasifika Museum, Bali.


Crispin Howarth
Curator Pacific Arts
National Gallery of Australia
GPO Box 1150 Canberra
ACT 2601 Australia

61 2 6240 6728