The Creation of Indigenous Collections in Melbourne: How Kenneth Clark, Charles Mountford, and Leonhard Adam Interrogated Australian Indigeneity

Aboriginal Art Directory | 31.07.09

My paper will explore three personalities, Kenneth Clark, Charles Mountford and Leonard Adam, and the impact they had on the creation and exhibition of collections of indigenous objects in Australia. Kenneth Clark visited Australia briefly in 1948 and left a dynamic legacy in both Melbourne and Adelaide. During his visit Clark was introduced to aboriginal art by Daryl Lindsay, director of the National Gallery of Victoria, one of the first Australians to show a passion for such things, by his friend Sir Joseph Burke, the first professor of art history at the University of Melbourne, and Charles Mountford, an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist. The most considerable contribution to the study of aboriginal art was made by Leonhard Adam, a German Jewish intellectual, who in his classic book: Primitive Art, espoused the Modernist Ideology of Primitivism. He arrived in Australia in 1942, and created an extraordinary collection for the University of Melbourne, of aboriginal works and what might be described as ‘global’ primitivism.


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