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Aboriginal Art News

Aboriginal Art News is a free news resource to promote and encourage education of Australian Aboriginal art.

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  • Ethical collecting and Indigenous Art in Melbourne by on Fri, 30 Oct 2015 13:17:41 +1000:
    Following from the recent discussion on ethical collecting of Indigenous art in Leichardt, Sydney, Melbourne is tackling the topic[b] this weekend[/b]

    An expert panel lead by gallerist Vivien Anderson will discuss issues around the buying of Indigenous art and artefacts by public institutions and private collectors. Also taking part are Maree Clarke, Rosemary Wrench and the discussion will be moderated by Kimberley Moulton.
    This takes place at the Counihan Gallery In Brunswick - a municipal establishment, presumably named after the Melbourne artist, Noel Counihan.

    The discussion will take place in the appropriate presence of artworks from the Adrian and Anne Newstead Collection - touring widely around the country under the title, [i]Black Art | White Walls[/i]
    . This exhibition - containing significant works by the Apuatimi Family from the Tiwi Islands, by Mick Kubarku, David Malangi and Peter Maralwanga from Arnhemland, David Jarinyanu Downs, Queenie McKenzie and Rover Thomas from The Kimberley, Emily Kngwarreye, Clifford Possum and Sunfly Tjampitjin from the Deserts, and Dennis Nona from the Torres Straits - runs until to Sunday 8 November.

    All this is at 233 Sydney Road (inside Brunswick Town Hall), Brunswick THIS Saturday, 31 October, at 2.30 pm

    The Speakers' CVs are:
    Vivien Anderson has specialised in Indigenous Australian art for the last 30 years with extensive experience in the commercial gallery sector, exhibiting and representing Indigenous Australian artists in her gallery. Vivien is a board member of the Australian Indigenous Code of Conduct, the Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian representative Board member for the Australian Contemporary Galleries Association and a Commonwealth Government valuer for the last 20 years in the field of Indigenous paintings sculpture and textiles post-1900.

    Kimberley Moulton is a Yorta Yorta curator and writer and is the Project Officer for Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum. Kimberley is an Alumna of the National Gallery of Australia Wesfarmers Indigenous Leadership Program, the British Council ACCELERATE Program in 2013 and most recently was the recipient of the inaugural National Gallery of Australia Indigenous International Curatorial Fellowship with the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection in Virginia, U.S.A.

    Maree Clarke is a Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, BoonWurrung woman from Mildura in northwest Victoria. Maree is a multi disciplinary artist living and working in Melbourne who has been key to the reclamation of south-east Australian Aboriginal art practices. This includes rediscovering the use of possum skin cloaks, kangaroo teeth necklaces, and string headbands adorned with kangaroo teeth and echidna quills. Maree was also formerly the Senior Curator and Exhibition Manager at the Koorie Heritage Trust.

    Rosemary Wrench has had a long association with Museum Victoria working as a researcher, collection manager and curator on various projects involving the Indigenous Collections. Rosemary was the Senior Curator of the Many Nations section of the First Peoples exhibition at the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum.  She accessed over 16,000 objects at Melbourne Museum and 100,000 images from Australian and International collections and photographers during research for the exhibition. She is currently Senior Collection Manager of the important Donald Thomson Collection at Museum Victoria.
  • OVER-PRODUCTION OF ABORIGINAL ART by on Wed, 28 Oct 2015 17:57:04 +1000:
    “Art Centres need to consider regulating the number of art products that are released on to the market, critically assessing the price points of their art products, and marketing them appropriately”.

    Those are the critical conclusions of a series of recent reports by the Alice Springs-based Ninti One, the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation, whose mandate is to suggest solutions to the economic challenges of remote Australia.

    [i]'The Economy of Place : A Place in the Economy'[/i]
    – as the summary report is neatly entitled – begins much more positively. The Indigenous art sector is vital to Australia in many ways, it assures readers: there's the identity it gives all of us us as the place in the world with the longest continuing human culture; it's evidence of a continuing Aboriginal presence and proof of the diversity of their cultures; and it's a distinctive and dynamic art movement.

    But the boom time is past – it's time to re-evaluate. And that's what Dr Alice Woodhead and Tim Acker have spent two years attempting to do; talking to more than 200 art centres, art businesses, agencies and individuals. Their efforts have gone into five reports and a summary, which are designed to enable change.

    And the figures that ought to disturb most suggest that since the earliest art centres came into being in the 1980s, almost 400,000 products have come out of them, though in the key 2003 to 2012 period for which they have the most accurate figures, 60,000 of them remain unsold. In particular, income peaked in the 2007 year (before the GFC changed everything) at $12.57m – but production kept climbing to a peak in 2010. Despite (or perhaps because of) that, 2012 art centre income was almost as bad as it had been in 2003 at $6.85m. Worst hit, too, were the most productive artists, those over 67 years of age. They create the big-priced items – mainly paintings - from their higher levels of experience, and their earnings dropped 52% at this time.

    Are there too many artists in too many art centres? In 2012, almost 14,000 people call themselves artists amongst the remote (and Very Remote) Australian population of 60,000, operating out of 87 art centres. But there were only 61 of them in 2003. There are also 875 freelance artists – though I suspect their output in an area like the Eastern Desert (including the prolific Utopia artists who've always resisted having an art centre) simply can't have been counted. For one chart shows annual sales from Arnhemland art centres at $630,000 and from Western Desert art centres (where 78% of the population makes art!) at $590,000. Eastern Desert managed only $75,000 – hardly enough to keep even one of Alice Springs many dealers in business!

    However, the reports themselves offer the following caveat: “When reading this report it is important to remain cognisant of the response rate from Art Centres. The 2003–2007 data is based on data from 41% of the total operational Art Centres during that period. The 2008–2012 data is based on data from 51% of total operational Art Centres. It is not advisable to multiply the total sales by the percentage or number of missing Art Centres as there is considerable variation in the size and scale of production by different Art Centres.

    Sadly, this means that, despite all their efforts and access, Ninti One can't come up with an answer to the fraught question as to what the annual turnover of the Aboriginal art business is. So often, numbers up to $200m. pa have been claimed, but Tim Acker's assessment in an email to me is as follows:

    “After all this time, I'm still unsure it's possible to answer that beloved, but probably meaningless question about how 'big' the ATSI sector is. From our tallying of remote art centres total sales, over the last few years, they may be creeping up slowly into the low $30 millions. That's primary sales, and includes non-painting sales (merchandise etc), though that's only a small % of the total really”.

    Now that $30m figure is a hell of lot larger than the $6.85m that appeared earlier in the Summary Report for the 2012 year. How did Acker explain that? “The last few years have seen the most complete audits done, and see total sales for those art centres with available audit records average around $18m p/a. But, there are important gaps in the records - Papunya Tula is the most notable. As a private company, their records aren't available. On top of them are other mostly smaller art centres. So, the $30m is a bit of an informed extension of the hard numbers we have and goes something like this:

    The last few years have seen sales between $15 and $20m from those audits - those audits represent around 60% of all art centres. Accounting for the art centres whose records we don't have, but also making educated guesses on the sales and/or using some averages for their region suggests an additional $10-$12m p/a.

    So, I use $30m as an estimate - primarily as a way of putting some reality back into the perception of Aboriginal art as enormously lucrative business. That $30m is demonstrably important on a whole lot of levels, but it's a long way from the $200m etc figure that's been quoted. Auction sales have been around $10m p/a for the last six or seven years, but it seems an almighty stretch to imagine that the gallery/retail sector could be worth $160m a year when there are only around 120 outlets trading in ATSI art still in business.

    Funding for remote art centres has come in for criticism recently – with annual grants from Canberra totalling around $26.1m seen as bureaucratising this delicately balanced business. But with a 126% fall in retained earnings over the10 year survey period, 60% of art centres now get more from the government than they do from sales. Could this be related to the ending of CDEP payments to ancillary staff in art centres in 2009/10 and its replacement by the Indigenous Employment Initiative? For 57% of art centres now pay more in wages than artist fees – sometimes to the artists themselves.

    Remembering that one of Ninti One's proposals was developing ways of marketing the art produced appropriately brings us to the Indigenous Art Code. “While appreciated by many, (it) is considered to lack discrimination and focus. Respondents suggested that the Code could be better used in establishing standard provenance documentation”. For the un-standardised unpredictability of art centre documentation – often substituted by inauthentic documentation from the commercial outlet selling the art – is seen as a serious negative in a business that's afflicted with too many reports of faking and exploitation of artists.

    A final comment: “The majority of art businesses want greater support to develop new market opportunities and partnerships, and can see the advantages of improved cooperation and communication”. Well if the dedicated Ninti One can only get answers from 60% of art centres, it does suggest that the need to “improve connections between artists, agents and audiences” should be prioritised. Which made me think Adelaide's brave Tarnanthi Festival definitely needs to be repeated.

    BTW, 16 of the Festival's 24 shows [i]are [/i]
    still on.
  • Keeping Art in Your Super by on Sun, 25 Oct 2015 11:58:44 +1000:
    [ Article in the AAD] Email Michael[/url]

    [b]You can keep art in your Super advises specialist art market accountant, Michael Fox, in this follow-up to his article on [url=]SMSF write-off measures[/url]
    - and invest in more. Here's how.[/b]

    Since the Cooper Report made its recommendation to ban artwork as a suitable investment for super funds in 2010, there has been a perception that SMSFs either have to dispose of their collections or are unable to make new purchases.

    Neither is true. And one the good things that came from the near prohibition five years ago is that collectors wishing to use their super funds to buy art have to put a lot more thought and consideration into their acquisitions.

    The new super art laws mandate insurance and storage requirements as well as rules for related party access and enjoyment of artworks. Compliance with the super art laws is the same as for SMSF trustees without collectables – act prudently. For this reason, it is probably not wise for a novice SMSF collector to buy a painting at an exhibition opening on a whim.

    All superannuation funds must have an investment strategy, and if you are to buy art as part of your strategy, some basic research should be undertaken. Personal taste may be a factor; however the trustee must be able to show that, as a super fund investment, art will be able to contribute to the provision of retirement benefits to the members of the fund.

    Collections are generally preferable for SMSFs than single artwork holdings. In a similar way to shares, collectors will balance out the risks of individual works rising and falling in value by holding a quantity of art. Because of the new administrative requirements, it also makes sense to document a number of artworks instead of a single piece and spread out these costs.

    The new super art requirements fall into three categories:

    1. Insurance;
    2. display; and
    3. related party use.

    Collectors will need ready access to either specialist art insurance or to general insurance covering the location of the artworks. The SMSF has no more than seven days to insure new acquisitions and failure to do so will result in the fund being in breach of the new regulations. Insurance firms will also have certain expectations about the way artworks are stored. For example, waterproofing and security will be important considerations.

    The ATO view is that super art displayed at the private residence of a member immediately confers a pre-retirement benefit and, as a result, the fund will be in breach of the SIS Act and lose its tax concessions. Even bubble-wrapped artwork stored at a member's home will contravene the new regulations. The solution is to hire a storage facility or arrange a 'safe house', however a written record of the decision to store your art purchases needs to made prior to each acquisition and then kept for at least 10 years.

    Related parties are not allowed to have use of the artworks. Related parties of a fund may include:

    a member;

    an employer-sponsor; and

    a 'Part 8' associate of a member or an employer-sponsor.

    'Part 8' associates are defined broadly to include relatives of the fund members and related entities of the individuals, partnerships or companies that operate the fund, deemed to be related either by ownership or through control of management. The new super art related party requirements mean all leasing of artworks between SMSFs and trustees or employer-sponsors will be unlawful as at 1 July 2016.

    The key to navigating around the new requirements is to make sure the way your super art collection is documented and stored will pass the necessary annual audit. Once again, this is a good outcome from the Cooper Report.

    Most artworks will be collected by super funds during what is known as their accumulation stage, which is the period before members retire. Art that is well-bought can be a good fit for the accumulation stage and may also be seen as a hedge against the periodic fluctuations of the share market. Once in benefit stage, it is possible to transfer artworks back to the members tax-free (but bear in mind this carries the possibility of a 5% resale royalty trigger).

    Finally, if you have a super fund and wish to buy Aboriginal artworks, please try to source these works from [url=]reputable dealers[/url]
    , particularly those that have signed to [url=]the Code[/url]
    . This may be seen as more of a pre-retirement ethical benefit that will not cause you to breach the new regulations.

    [i]Michael Fox is a Melbourne-based tax agent and valuer who specialises in the art market. He can contacted by email at or by phone on 0418 741 726.[/i]
  • Super Art and Write-Off Measures for SMSFs by on Tue, 20 Oct 2015 07:37:07 +1000:
    [ Articles in the AAD] Email Michael[/url]

    [b]Unless new Arts Minister in Canberra, Mitch Fifield, can be tempted to cross the Treasury/Brandis line that art is bad for super funds, the months leading up June 30th 2016 are going to see panic selling of art - including Aboriginal art. Specialist accountant, Michael Fox, offers some thoughts on tackling this matter in a more effective way. And this is certainly a more predictable way to go about this business than attempting to buy your own work back at auction.[/b]

    The depreciation provisions in the recently legislated [i]Small Business Measures [/i]
    offers some super funds a tax-effective strategy to transfer their artwork investments to their members prior to a looming compliance deadline.

    From 1 July 2016, all artworks must comply with new display, storage, insurance and related-party requirement as the five year grandfathering clause in Section 62A of the [i]SIS Act[/i]
    will expire. Failure to comply with Section 62A will be costly for super funds and could jeopardise their tax-compliant status. This is particularly the case for artworks owned by super funds and displayed by business trustees, regardless of whether lease payments are being made by the business, as these types of arrangements will be unlawful.

    I estimate the annual holding costs of the new requirements – particularly storage - as between 2% and 5% of the value of the artwork investments. In relation to whether artworks should continue to be held after 30 June, a good starting point is for super funds to work out their current market value. Then the insurance and storage costs may be evaluated by reference to their worth. Valuation requirements are discussed in more detail later in this article.

    If trustees decide that the additional compliance costs make their artwork investments uneconomic, it is possible to transfer ownership from the fund to either the trustee or members by obtaining a market valuation for that purpose. If the trustee or members is a small business (defined by the [i]Small Business Measures[/i]
    as an entity with an annual turnover of less than $2 million), they will also obtain a generous tax deduction if the transfer occurs before the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

    Artworks are classified as investments under the SIS Act but also as depreciating assets under Division 40 of the[i] Income Tax Assessment Act[/i]
    . Normally artworks, particularly expensive ones, are subject to a very low rate of depreciation due to the normal useful life being up to 100 years as determined by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The former accelerated depreciation measure did not apply to artworks because the useful life threshold was set at 25 years but this year's measures are completely different.

    An immediate write-off of up to $20,000 is available to an eligible small business purchasing a depreciating asset. There is no bar to either second-hand goods or whether the parties involved in the transaction are related to each other. There is no limit to the number of assets costing less than $20,000 that a small business may claim a tax deduction for. Provided the small business can show that they are the economic owner (or holder) of the artworks, four main criteria must be satisfied to be eligible for the immediate write-off:

    1. they must be tangible;

    2. they must be capable of being moved;

    3. artworks have to be purchased with the dominant purpose of display in a business premise; and

    4. they must not be trading stock.

    Where appropriate, a small business trustee or member of the super fund could buy back all of the artworks held in its super fund and claim a 100% tax write-off for each artwork costing less than $20,000. If this happened on or before 30 June 2016, the super fund would also avoid the compliance costs of the new Section 62A requirements.

    A valuation will need to be prepared by a suitably qualified valuer in order for the trustee or member to purchase artworks back from the super fund. The valuation must comply with the guidelines set out by the ATO in [i]Market valuation for tax purposes[/i]
    (released 23 June 2014), which closely follows the authoritative case of [i]Spencer v Commonwealth[/i]
    (1907) in relation to this issue. Helpfully, the ATO has just released a valuation instruction form, which I highly recommend the client and the valuer complete and attach to the valuation for the purposes of transferring artworks from the super fund to the trustee or member.

    For the super fund, the transfer will cause either a capital gain or a capital loss on the disposal of the artwork. If a capital loss is created, it is not allowable to offset this loss against capital gains created through the disposal of equities and property.

    For the trustee or members, the immediate write-off of an artwork costing less than $20,000 and transferred from the super fund, will reduce its cost base to nil. As the artwork is a depreciating asset, the 50% capital gain discount for assets held for more than 12 months will not be available. A subsequent sale of the artwork will create a taxable gain on the net proceeds and, in rare cases, will also create a liability for resale royalty to the maker of the artwork.

    [i]Michael Fox is a Melbourne-based tax agent and valuer who specialises in art market matters. He led the Save Super Art campaign in 2010 to prevent artworks from being prohibited as suitable investments for self-managed superannuation funds. Please email any queries you may have about this article to him at[/i]
  • TARNANTHI TRIUMPHANT by on Sun, 18 Oct 2015 17:44:53 +1000:
    “Story is so rich in Aboriginal art; it does help to know the back-story when viewing it”.

    Nici Cumpston, Artistic Director of the new [i]Tarnanthi [/i]
    (pronounced Tar-Nan-Dee) Festival that's making its debut currently in Adelaide, speaks truth, as any curator who is also a significant artist herself would do.

    And in her truly national Indigenous festival – even the Torres Strait crept in at Adelaide's first art fair – she gave viewers several significant stories in ways that are not really fashionable these days. Unfortunately, other Indigenous curators relentless plug the 'contemporary' line which apparently requires the art to be presented entirely without back-story so that we appreciate it only as aesthetics. Interesting, then that international curatorial maven, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev took not only contemporary Arnhem barks to her current Istanbul Biennial but also archival artworks from the Yolngu history of campaigning against miners coming on their land, and of battles for land and sea rights to provide appropriate context. More of that later.

    Two stories stood out for me in the long weekend of [i]Tarnanthi[/i]
    's opening – 23 venues potentially to visit, more than 350 artists represented. One was intentionally featured; one was shared by an artist who just couldn't leave the meaning of his artwork to be guessed at. Both encompassed contemporary dramas that linked to mythological stories, both ended with a political message, and both required art to achieve their sharing.

    At the SASA Gallery of UniSA,[i] 'Kapi Ungkupayi/He Gave Us Water'[/i]
    filled the room. An installation and film encompassed car-body parts, kids painting birdlife, Tjanpi woven animals and paintings by five women elders from Irrunytju (and its new Minyma Kutjara arts centre) who were 'lost' out in the desert for five days with temperatures soaring into the 50s when their Toyota ran out of both water and fuel. The SASA Gallery is run by Mary Knights, a former facilitator at Irrunytju and a reliable retailer of their story – which they have insisted in the catalogue is “an important story, a new tjukurpa (dreaming story) about our culture, our faith and our relationship with our land”.

    As the old women sat beneath a tree, they knew their Country and its water sources – but the only one they could reach on foot was dry. Native tobacco was chewed, a ngintaka (perentie) caught and cooked – but they needed water. One old lady (Mrs Woods) was frail and, after receiving warnings of its imminence from encroaching dingoes, has subsequently died. So they simply couldn't walk any distance. Sometimes they sung tjukurpa, and on Sunday they sang hymns.

    Did that cause a cloud to appear – for the '[i]He[/i]
    ' of the title is, in fact, their Christian god? Or did the tjukurpa encourage a cloud of desert finches to appear, heralding an unseen water source. The women dug feverishly where they'd settled, and a metre down they reached brackish – holy – water. It was such an epic story, they were actually reluctant to leave when rescued. It certainly was a story to be told when [i]Tarnanthi [/i]
    invited their contribution.

    So the women painted and wove, Mrs Woods and Roma Butler contributing significant canvases; local kids added a flight of painted finches to show they'd learnt survival lessons from the story; unusual portraits of the now-legendary participants were created; a film recorded the Country and the new tjukurpa that was created and sung to tell this tale; and Adelaide, at least, has an understanding of “the close and interconnected relationships between our culture and our Country”. For Irrunytju/Wingellina is one of the 192 remote communities in Western Australia deemed 'unsustainable' by its government, and living there on Country a 'lifestyle choice' by our former PM.

    The rest of Australia may gain a lesser understanding via the delightful YouTube film of last April's[i] 'Wingellina Protest[/i]
    ' against closure of their community.

    Over at the Artfair in the venerable Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, booths were tailored to the specific needs of each art centre (40 came, some in groups from The Kimberley, APY Lands, etc), and a VIP room was hung with classy art, selling 29 works totalling more than $100,000 during the two days of the fair. Unlike Darwin, where its well-establish art fair is surrounded by a dozen commercial outlets, Adelaide is almost bereft of specialist Aboriginal galleries now that Paul Greenaway and AP Bond seem to have deserted the cause. The Cairns Art Fair is all about selling Queensland art. So it was appropriate that the handful of locals alerted to the delights of Aboriginal art by Tarnanthi's exhibitions should also get the chance to buy it, and meet its makers.

    Standing with a gorgeous suite of his barks and a larrikitj, Djambawa Murawili AM couldn't hold back on his story. There, intertwined with the swirls of his tribal [i]miny'tji[/i]
    , is a boat crossing from one side of his Blue Mud Bay homeland to the other. Like the old ladies' Toyota, it's broken down, and the 4 man crew is out of water. Fresh water sites are all around them – there's an ancestral kangaroo that's leapt from the mainland to an island with perpetual water to escape pursuing dogs (now turned into rocks). But out in the middle of the bay, Djambawa advises his crew to lick their salty paddles. Then, rising beneath the boat, a hairy monster takes it on his back, and transports them home! There, an anthropologist greets Marawili and tells him he has to fly to Darwin overnight – for the sea-rights battle in the High Court will be resolved tomorrow; and its a victory for the Yolngu and Indigenous Australia.

    Art and politics interwoven – as in Istanbul, where [i]The Guardian[/i]
    's critic Adrian Searle assessed: “A floating sculptural zoo and work by Aboriginal artists are the highlights of this year’s strange, ever-surprising Istanbul Biennial”. He goes on: “Christov-Bakargiev has also, surprisingly and tellingly, installed a number of paintings by Australian Aboriginal artists at Istanbul Modern, and presents the indigenous Yolngu people’s 1963 petition – typed, signed and surrounded by a painting on bark – claiming indigenous rights to their ancestral lands and to the seas. This petition eventually effected changes in Australian law”.

    Other stories in [i]Tarnanthi [/i]
    are less straightforward. The most powerful room in the main Art Gallery of SA exhibition is filled with large, brilliant Spinifex paintings that shine in its darkness. They were collaboratively inspired by Cumpston's offer to fund a bush trip from their home in WA (where they have no art centre) to the lands they lost in SA when the Maralinga nuclear tests displaced them. John Carty's essay in the catalogue explains all this and the Spinifex people's unique use of classical desert forms (undisguised by dotting) which both map the storylines and also emerge as individual artist's statements of who s/he is and how s/he relates to Country and community. But it's so much easier to understand the Maralinga material in Adelaide artist, Yhonnie Scarce's one-dimensional blown glass blackened yams that dominate the exhibition's entry foyer in a beautiful but predictable mushroom cloud candelabra.

    Upstairs, Yvonne Koolmatrie has 30 years of her sedge weaving superbly displayed by curators Jonathan Jones and Hetti Perkins. But her story – told confidently by herself at a packed session in the gallery – is of her own heroic efforts to re-discover the almost-lost Ngarrindjeri art of weaving in an ethos where the language-group's ceremony had been obliterated. But Diane Bell's recent book on the Ngarrindjeri suggests there's a world of [i]Wukkin mi:mini[/i]
    elsewhere in which the “women's business of weaving” continues to contain “all the cultural and sacred life which has been part of (their) ancestry”.

    Outside, in one of the too few performative aspects of [i]Tarnanthi[/i]
    , Jonathan Jones (again) choreographed an [i]inma [/i]
    from the APY Lands involving spear-making, a brilliantly-lit installation, songs by a group of tjilpies (elders) and dancing by young men in the process of learning the ropes from their elders. The story began with the spears – remember Turkey Tolson's many [i]'Straightening Spears[/i]
    ' paintings – and, en-masse, they became an artwork hanging from the ceiling in a recent Adelaide Biennial. The added dancing was intended to engage and educate a new generation of Anangu men. But with the singing un-amplified, the dancers looked sadly unmotivated when compared with either the Garma Festival's jolly [i]bungles [/i]
    or, especially, with the great pan-tribal events on Groote Eylandt in the 80s where every language group was showing its dynamic best off to the others. Where's the Aboriginal Cultural Foundation (which organised them) when you need it???

    And then there's the foundation myth about [i]Tarnathi [/i]
    itself! Politics again – with BHP's failure to expand the Olympic Dam mine that's such a large part of SA's economy requiring a quid pro quo in the form of a generous $4m donation to the State. Luckily, Nici Cumpston had been quietly building her plans since 2010 (when she first saw and fell for the increasingly-appreciated Ngarra's art in Perth), and she had in Director Nick Mitzevich a man ready to jump on such a large band-wagon. And then there was a Premier in Jay Weatherill prepared to aggrandise the event at its opening (by Paul Keating) as establishing Adelaide as “the international gateway for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art in this nation”.

    And why not? Nici Cumpston's map of contributing art centres clearly shows a funnel from the Far North flowing straight into Adelaide. Darwin, Cairns, Alice and Perth all have their visual arts moments – but they tend to be a little parochial; as was proven by the attendance of national Aboriginal arts industry figures at [i]Tarnanthi [/i]
    in numbers unseen in Darwin, Alice or Cairns for a decade or more. Indigenous festivals in Sydney and Alice have died in the bum.

    So, BHP, please feel guilty again in two years time – Australia does need an international gateway for the nation's unique ATSI culture.
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