Open Country: Indigenous art from the collection

Gallery 2 December 21, 2013 - February 2, 2014

This exhibition celebrates the Gallery’s growing collection of Australian indigenous art that began in earnest when the Gallery opened in 1986.  One of the first exhibitions held was by indigenous ceramic artist Thancoupie signalling the importance of indigenous art for both the Gallery’s program and collection. An important group of bark paintings were acquired in the late 1980s and early 1990s by artists such as England Bangala, Charlie Djurritini, John Mawurndjul, George Milpurrurru and Jimmy Wululu.

In 1993, to mark the 25th year of the Gold Coast Art Prize, and also to honour the United Nations Year of Indigenous Peoples, the Art Prize focussed solely on the art of indigenous Australia. Judged by the AGNSW Curator of Aboriginal Art, Hetti Perkins, and with an advisory panel consisting of Michael Aird, Allen Brown, Michael Eather and Lindsay Wilson, this special prize and exhibition included the work of 73 indigenous artists. Acquired that year were works from Richard Bell, Denis Nona, Clarise Nampijinpa Poulson, Karen Casey, Willie Gudabi as well as Gold Coast artist Joyce Summers.

The collection has continued to grow through judicious purchases and through the great generosity of a number of donors, not least of which has been the Gallery Chairman Patrick Corrigan AM.  Over the years he has donated almost 100 works to the indigenous collection and has solicited a similar number from other donors.  The majority of donated works are by artists from the Central and Western desert regions of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.  Some highly cherished donations include works by artists such as Sally Gabori, Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa - Mrs Bennett, Ningura Napurrula, Naata Nungurrayi, Gloria Petyarre, Rover Thomas (Joolama) and Walala Tjapaltjarri.

The artists in this exhibition act as custodians of ceremonial stories and the land encapsulated in the work.  Each artist provides us with a representation that allows access to their close spiritual connection to place. Their artworks relate to stories about their land, culture and associated Dreaming stories.