What is the fate of Papunya Tula?

Aboriginal Art Directory | 24.05.10

Author: Marie Bout
News source: ABC

The threat of hostile takeover leaves many waiting in anticipation for the fate of Papunya Tula Arts.

From the ABC:

The Australian Aboriginal Arts industry has been waiting in great anticipation for the fate of Papunya Tula. For the past two weeks it's been rumoured that a hostile takeover is in the works, alleged to be orchestrated by a well known Alice Springs private art dealer. Chris Simon operates Australian Arts Industries, a private centre on Ilparpa Road.

"Papunya Tula could thrive under my leadership," said Mr. Simon, who confirmed to ABC News that he'd organised a Papunya Tula shareholder meeting over the weekend in Kintore, to ask them who they'd like to see head the organisation. Mr. Simon says that it is by the request of Papunya Tula artists who sometimes paint at his centre, saying "I am not trying to take over. People have asked me to."

But according to Papunya Tula's General Manager Paul Sweeney there's no constitutional way in which Mr. Simon could take over the organisation over the weekend. Mr. Sweeney is adamant that whilst confronting takeover rumours with his artists, shareholders and Board, in Kiwirrkurra, he has been assured that he is wanted at the helm. "Resolutions were passed of absolute and total confidence in the current management," said Mr. Sweeney.

As one of Australia's most well known Aboriginal Arts Centres, at the head of the Western-Desert Art movement, and in the business for more than forty years, Papunya Tula is an institution. It's not hard to pick a Papunya Tula painting, the strong dot work, oranges, browns, ochre, white, and black, with an unfailing quality that have become the well known art centre's brand. What's more interesting is that behind the success of paint splattered canvas is a community arts model that has seen the organisation of supporting the communities of Kintore and Kiwirrkurra.

"Papunya Tula, being artist owned and community run, and certainly very community and grassroots operated, operates in a very different manner to a private commercial gallery or dealer," said Mr. Sweeney.

Their field workers are known to undertake a variety of tasks on their fortnight long bush trips such as washing elderly artists, entertaining kids, cooking, and supporting painters who may never generate a financial return.

Galleries to the south of the Centre have expressed concern to Mr. Sweeney, at what drastic change is rumoured to be ahead - no one is taking the threat lightly it seems. "It would change the whole landscape of the aboriginal scene," said Mr. Sweeney.

As part of it's community arts mandate Papunya Tula has also contributed funding toward a public pool and renal care facilities in Kintore. Thus, the threat of a takeover in leadership by a private dealer is a resounding threat that echoes beyond the art world. "As a community organisation that wouldn't be here without Papunya Tula we're incredibly concerned about the future direction of the organisation." Said Sarah Brown, Manager of the Western Desert Dialysis Corporation.

Amongst the uncertainty, rumour, and subterfuge, one thing is certain; As an Aboriginal co-operative, a decision on the future of the iconic Papunya Tula Arts will ultimately be made by owners - its 120 shareholders and it's Board.

URL: http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/05/24/2907098.htm

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Contact Details

Gallery: Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd
Contact: Paul Sweeny
Email: art@papunyatula.com.au
Telephone: +61 8 8952 4731
Address: 63 Todd Mall Alice Springs Alice Springs 0871 NT



Further Research

Gallery: Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd

News Categories: Media

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