Papunya and Balgo exhibitions at the National Art Museum of China - promotion of Australia’s rich cultural heritage

Aboriginal Art Directory | 22.07.10

Extraordinary collections of Indigenous art from Australia’s remote deserts are now on display in Beijing.
The highly regarded Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert and BALGO: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills collections collectively form the National Art Museum of China’s exhibition Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts. This large-scale and prestigious exhibition was the opening event for Imagine Australia: the Year of Australian Culture.
The exhibition is a significant milestone in Australia-China cultural relations and demonstrates the importance of art in cultural diplomacy.
Art crosses language barriers and touches universal emotions across borders. In this instance, it reinforces Australia’s standing as a stable, sophisticated, innovative and creative nation. The exhibition also promotes an accurate and positive image of Australia’s Indigenous people to a broader audience.
The exhibition features information plates in Mandarin alongside the paintings with the artists’ biographies and explanation of the symbolism of motifs. These details offer a tool for Chinese audiences to gain a greater understanding and awareness of Australia’s Indigenous cultures.
Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert
The Papunya Tula art movement was nationally and internationally applauded and is now represented in most public galleries, major museums, institutions and many large private collections within Australia. The largest collection belongs to the National Museum of Australia.

Honey Ant Hunt 1975 by Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri
Source: This work is copyright Mr Tjapaltjarri's estate and licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency 2007
The National Museum has more than 200 Papunya paintings and artefacts. This includes one of the most significant collections of 1970s Papunya Tula canvases in the world. The Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council compiled this collection during a ten-year period. In 1989 the collection was transferred to the National Museum.
In 2007 the National Museum presented the highly successful art exhibition, Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert. This collection of 48 artworks and 18 ethnographic objects attracted significant visitor numbers when it went on display at the National Museum in 2007- 2008.
BALGO: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills
Balgo art shares many links with the Papunya movement. During the late 1970s, as the Pintupi people of the Western Desert and Balgo community share familial relationships, some Papunya artists visited Balgo to visit family members. Inspired by the success of the Papunya Tula artists the Balgo artists explored the acrylic medium themselves as they saw the potential it offered their community.
The stories and symbols presented in Balgo art stem from ceremony and traditions. Like Papunya artists, Balgo artists drew upon their understanding of The Dreaming. However, as the Balgo settlement compromises people from across more than seven language groups: Kukatja, Walmajarri, Pintupi, Ngardi, Wangkatjungka and Tjaru, the result is a mixture of traditional stories of the land.

Papunya and Balgo exhibitions in China
Source: Artbank
Balgo art is particularly known for its use of rich and vibrant colours. When the paintings first hit the international spotlight in the 1980s they revitalised what the world understood as ‘traditional’ Indigenous art.
The Balgo collection, made up of works from Artbank’s collection, represent works from the remote Balgo Hills region in the Wester Desert of Western Australia. BALGO: Contemporary Australian Art from the Balgo Hills is an international touring exhibition presented by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Artbank to promote a deeper understanding of Aboriginal Australia.
National Art Museum of China
In response to the expected popularity and interest in Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts the National Art Museum of China, or NAMOC, is running the exhibition from June until the end of August 2010, a longer than usual run for a touring exhibition.
The National Art Museum of China is a national museum dedicated to the collection, research and exhibition of modern and contemporary artistic works in China. Over the past four decades, NAMOC has held thousands of influential exhibitions of different kinds featuring renowned local and international artists.
For many visitors that this exhibition will be the first time they have seen Indigenous Australian art. As such, Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts will offer background materials explaining the artistic features, the mysterious symbolism in the paintings, the aesthetic concepts reflected in the presentation of daily objects, the primitive yet modern styles, the rustic and durable materials. The exhibition will also demonstrate the innovative activities undertaken by Australia to preserve cultural heritage and promote innovation based on tradition.
China will reciprocate by sending an exhibition of its own. In 2011-2012 the National Art Museum of China will launch an exhibition of Chinese art during the Year of China in Australia.
Imagine Australia: the Year of Australian Culture in China
China and Australia have agreed to the importance of preserving cultural heritage and maintaining the cultural diversity in the world.
Imagine Australia: the Year of Australian Culture in China was first announced in 2008 by Australia’s Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Stephen Smith, chairs of the Australia International Cultural Council.
Running until June 2011, Chinese audiences will have the opportunity to see an array of Australia’s talent across a broad spectrum of art, including performing arts, visual arts, film, literature, fashion and design.
For more information on Imagine Australia: the Year of Australian Culture in China visit: or call 1800 145 101.


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