Aboriginal art's new face at Canberra gallery

Aboriginal Art Directory | 03.10.10

Ron Radford, the director of Canberra's National Gallery of Australia, can say almost exactly when Australians and overseas visitors became interested in Aboriginal art.

''You can pinpoint it to the 1988 Bicentennial,'' Mr Radford said yesterday. ''That's when people would come up to the front desk and say, 'Can you direct me to the Aboriginal art?' I can can assure you that did not happen before the Bicentennial.''

A former director of the State Gallery of South Australia and head of the NGA for five years, Radford said the state galleries were not very interested in showing indigenous art before 1988, though they had been collecting it since the 1950s.

But now he can say Australia finally has a gallery showing a permanent collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art with the NGA's new $107 million wing declared open last night by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

''We now have 11 galleries showing 600 works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art,'' he said.

The NGA can draw on a collection of 7500 works Mr Radford said was the biggest collection of Australian indigenous art in the world. ''We want these to be destination works. Just in the way people go to see Tom Roberts' A break away! we want people to come and see Rover Thomas's Cyclone Tracy. We will change works around but key works will remain so they become familiar.''

The 11 new galleries, which add 40 per cent more exhibition space to the original building opened in 1982, include Western Desert art, paintings from the Kimberley, a room devoted to Albert Namatjira, works from the Torres Strait Islands, and 19th century objects.

A gallery devoted mostly urban artists will inevitably lead to debate about whether this segregates work by contemporary artists who happen to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

''We have work by Tracey Moffatt in the foyer because she doesn't like to be in indigenous galleries, but this is not about being a ghetto for Aboriginal art; it's a showcase,'' Radford said.

URL: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/aboriginal-arts-new-face-at-canberra-gallery-20100930-15zb2.html

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Contact Details

Gallery: National Gallery of Australia
Contact: Tina Baum - Curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Telephone: +61 2 6240 6502
Address: Parkes Place or GPO Box 1150 Canberra ACT 2601 Parkes Parkes 2601 ACT



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Gallery: National Gallery of Australia

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