“Anyone who has ever seen them is thereafter haunted as if by a feverish dream“
Karl Woermann, (venerable art historian, about Oceanic statuary)
Such are the words of a true Tiki lover. Little did Karl know that 50 years later his love would be shared by a whole generation of Americans who worshipped the Tiki as their god of recreation.
While bamboo bars and tropical watering holes had been popular in American cities from the 1930s on, it was not until the mid-50s that the Polynesian idol commonly called the Tiki became the ambassador of South Sea escapism. The post-war public’s taste had evolved into a fascination with exotic cultures, and as Hawaii was about to become a member of the United States, its art and sculpture was utilized to decorate Polynesian-style bars and restaurants.
In doing so, American proprietors and their designers used their own imagination to embellish the traditional tribal models, and a new pop culture was born. The whimsical Tiki image proliferated in the form of statues, motel signs, menu covers and cocktail mugs. The contrast of primitive-looking Tiki carvings with mid-century modernism provided a unique esthetic friction unlike any design style before it.
After Tiki fell out of fashion in the 1980s, urban archeologists unearthed its remnants piece by piece, gradually resurrecting the forgotten culture. Invigorated by the craft cocktail revival, a new generation of Tiki lovers is now partaking in its primal spirit in new Tiki hideaways all over the world.