A collection of bags from all over the world, significant because of their cultural roles; including army kitbags, a sporran, a bag made out of an albatross foot, and high-fashion handbags.
The bag, and the handbag in particular, has achieved high fashion status, but what's the cultural and historical significance behind the bag? Why do we use them and not just have pockets? Why don't men routinely use them? Does every culture have a tradition of using bags?
The Auckland Museum exhibition Carried Away: Bags Unpacked is a collection of 150 bags from their Applied Arts and Design Collection, a nationally significant research archive of key makers and designers from New Zealand and abroad, and this book serves as both a photographic record and an exploration of the symbolism and power behind bags.
Grace Lai, curator of the collection, unpacks issues carried by the bag: of colonialism, the economy, consumption, gender politics, and whakapapa. Issues that remain relevant to not only museums and their collections but also to society today.
Guided by a curiosity for the stories told by objects that are overlooked or dismissed, Grace Lai is interested in seeking out the web of connections between material and immaterial culture. This philosophy was developed during her time as an Alphawood Scholar at SOAS University of London. Today, Grace is an art historian and curator at Auckland Museum, where she leads the exhibition, curation and development of the Applied Arts and Design collection, a nationally significant research archive of key makers and designers from New Zealand and abroad. Currently, her research is focused on expanding the collection and on the discourse of contemporary New Zealand practitioners - which has seen her get carried away by bags.
Allen & Unwin
A&U New Zealand
Society & culture: general