From 30 September 2011 to 12 February 2012 the National Gallery of Victoria and Museum Victoria presented Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.1 Curated by Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Victoria, and Dr Philip Batty, Senior Curator, Museum Victoria. This exhibition of global significance coincided with the fortieth anniversary of the Papunya Tula painting movement, as well as the 150th anniversary of the NGV. The exhibition was conceived in 2006, the same year the Musée du quai Branly (MQB) opened in Paris. Subsequently, Dr Philippe Peltier, then Deputy Director of MQB, was briefed to curate a major exhibition of Indigenous Australian art for the museum. During Tjukurrtjanu’s long gestation period, Dr Peltier made two visits to Melbourne and was instrumental in its successful assignment to Paris in 2012.
The visual culture of Aboriginal Australia is a powerful and mesmeric art form that has evolved from the world’s oldest continuous art tradition, and yet it has rarely been presented in depth in the great museums of Europe.2 A selection of significant exhibitions of Aboriginal art presented in major European venues are: D’un autre continent: l’Australie, le rêve et le réel, Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris, 4 Oct. – 4 Dec. 1983; Magiciens de la terre, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou & Grande Halle, Parc de la Villette, Paris, 18 May – 14 Aug. 1989 (part of a huge exhibition of contemporary art); L’Eté Australien à Montpellier, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France, 30 June – Sept. 1990 (part of an exhibition of Australian art); La Biennale di Venezia, XLIV esposizione internazionale d’arte, Venice, 1990 (including work by Trevor Nickolls and Rover Thomas); Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, 24 April – 4 July 1993, Hayward Gallery, London, 23 July – 10 Oct. 1993, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 11 Feb. – 23 May 1994; Stories: A Journey Around Big Things: Work by 11 Aboriginal Artists, The Holmes à Court Collection, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, 8 March – 30 April 1995, Museum für Volkerkunde zu Leipzig, 9 May – 10 June 1995, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 16 June – 10 Sept. 1995, Ludwig-Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, 22 Sept. – 23 Nov. 1995; Fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson, 47th Venice Biennale, Australian Pavilion, Venice, 15 June – 9 Nov. 1997; Peintres aborigènes d’Australie, Parc de la Villette, Paris, 26 Nov. 1997– 11 Jan. 1998; Aboriginal Art to Europe (organised by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Oct. 1999 – Jan. 2000, Hermitage, St Petersburg, 2 Feb. – 9 April 2000; ‘rarrk’ John Mawurndjul: Journey Through Time in Northern Australia, Museum Tinguely, Basel, 21 Sept. 2005 – 29 Jan. 2006, Sprengel Museum Hanover, 19 Feb. – 5 June 2006; Remembering Forward: Australian Aboriginal Painting since 1960, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 20 Nov. 2010 – 20 March 2011. Its recognition in Australia and internationally may be construed primarily through its ascendency as a cross-cultural painting phenomenon that interprets and transforms an ephemeral art tradition centred on ceremony. It therefore sits uneasily with other collections of First Nations art and material culture, which are generally evidenced in customary objects, body ornaments and sculptures, and correspondingly produced for and used in analogous ritual contexts.
French interest in Aboriginal art as a means of assigning importance to culture can be traced to the 1950s and 1960s, and seen in the pioneering fieldwork of Czech-born artist Karel Kupka. In 1956 Kupka began to collect and document Aboriginal bark paintings and sculptures for the Museum der Kulturen, Basel. Influenced by his association with André Breton, Kupka embraced a Surrealist perspective that privileged the bark paintings by contending that they represented an elemental form in visual art, the ‘source of conceptual representation’.3 André Breton, preface to Karel Kupka, Dawn of Art: Painting and Sculpture of Australian Aborigines, Angus & Robertson, 1965, p. 10. Informed by the theories of French anthropologists Émile Durkheim and Claude Lévi-Strauss,4 See Fred R. Myers, ‘Uncertain regard: an exhibition of Aboriginal art in France’, Ethnos, vol. 63, no. 1, 1998, p. 15. Kupka wrote Un art à l’état brut in 1960 (with a preface by Breton),5An English translation, The Dawn of Art Painting and Sculpture of Australian Aboriginies, was published by Cheshire, Melbourne, in 1965. in which he marvels at this plastic art conserved in a miraculous state of purity, texture and materiality; qualities then being cultivated by the Art Brut movement led by Jean Dubuffet.
At Kupka’s instigation, the Musée des Arts Africains et Océaniens, Paris, purchased an important part of the collection acquired during his fourth trip to Arnhem Land in 1963. These 255 works by forty-five artists, augmented soon after by a gift of fifty-five works, fortified Kupka’s thesis that this art was innovative within a Western canonical paradigm, explicitly in terms of its construction of a unique pictorial architecture, irrespective of the constraints imposed by ritual.6 See Christian Kaufmann, ‘Aboriginal art from Arnhem Land – why in Basel?’, in Christian Kaufmann (ed.), ‘rarrk’ John Mawurndjul: Journey Through Time in Northern Australia, Schwabe, Basel, 2005, p. 224, note 8. Befittingly, Kupka’s well-documented collection occupied a discrete exhibition hall and embodied Europe’s most significant display of bark paintings, a reputation now commanded by MQB.7 Myers, p. 15.
During the 1980s Western Desert art began to be repositioned as contemporary art, validated by its inclusion in Australian Perspecta ’81,8 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 May 1981 – 21 June 1981, curated by Bernice Murphy. as well as by amenable acquisition strategies adopted by art museum directors James Mollison (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), Ron Radford (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide) and Patrick McCaughey (NGV). While a new visual acculturation was gathering momentum in Australian institutions, internationally Western Desert art – in its purest form – was creating a spectacular impression in Paris. In 1983, at the Festival d’Automne à Paris (prescribed by its theme ‘The dream and the reality’), twelve Warlpiri men from Lajamanu were commissioned to create a 12 x 12 metre ground painting for the exhibition D’un autre continent: l’Australie, le rêve et le réel, staged at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Rock Python Dreaming at Jurntu was a performative installation piece in red ochre and white organic materials made by Warlpiri managers and owners, none of whom were professional artists, to articulate their culture to Kartiya (non-Warlpiri outsiders). Fred Myers states:
The French affinity for a designation focused on ‘dreams’ [was] doubly motivated – by the avant-garde interest in the ephemeral, the ‘dematerialised’ art object, and by the common rhetorical point of departure for French artworld responses to and legitimations of Aboriginal art through the collecting of Karel Kupka and his patronage by André Breton.9 Myers, p. 21.
In 1989 another ephemeral Warlpiri ground painting was commissioned for Les Magiciens de la Terre, a considerably more ambitious exhibition that interrogated the globalisation of culture. This provocative avant-garde exposition, curated by Jean Hubert-Martin, was presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou and at the Grande Halle de la Villette to coincide with the Bicentennial of France. It brought 100 artists from disparate and peripheral cultural traditions into the contemporary art museum as a testament to the universality of art and spirituality. This grand spectacle of world art shifted dramatically from one culture to another, opening up a dialogue between non-Western and Western art; the periphery and mainstream.
More than two decades later, the NGV toured Tjukurrtjanu to MQB, consolidating and building on the interest demonstrated by Paris audiences in the exotic spectacle of these two specially commissioned ground paintings. Tjukurrtjanu examined the modern painting practice that originated at Papunya, conceived from men’s unseen ritual designs. The selection of 200 early paintings presented a comprehensive survey of twenty of the major artists who were instrumental in the movement’s genesis and eventual efflorescence. These paintings of extreme gravitas and invention were contextualised by an introductory display of decorated ceremonial objects that established their pre-existing, collectively owned iconographic lexicon.
Musée du quai Branly, Paris
MQB, the visionary dream of Jacques Chirac, former President of France (1996–2008) and a long-term admirer of First Nations art, was founded on a ‘belief in the equal dignity of the world’s cultures’,10 Address by Jacques Chirac at the opening of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, 20 June 2006. and that their ‘masterpieces rival the finest examples of Western art’.11 ibid. On 13 April 2000 President Chirac instigated an Indigenous wing at the Musée de Louvre, Paris, as a preface to the opening of MQB. This return of art long considered ‘primitive’ to the citadel of world art history – a dream of poets, artists, scientists and collectors – takes the form of approximately 100 ritual sculptural objects, beautifully lit in exquisite glass cases. The display is primarily about masterpieces displayed in stark isolation from each other, and multilingual information sheets, wall texts and maps of the four geographical sections Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas are provided for viewers. The Indigenous wing at the Louvre stands as an ‘expression of the will of France to grant to “primitive” arts their just place in the world of museums’.12 Wall text, Musée du Louvre, Paris, transcribed by author June 2006. Moreover, Chirac proclaimed in his speech at the opening of MQB, on 18 June:
There is no hierarchy in the arts any more than there is a hierarchy of peoples … [MQB] strives to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations, tolerance and respect for others … France wished to pay homage to peoples to whom, throughout the ages, history has all too often done violence. Peoples injured and exterminated by the greed and brutality of conquerors. Peoples humiliated and scorned, denied even their own history. Peoples still now often marginalised, weakened, endangered by the inexorable advance of modernity … Central to our idea is the rejection of ethnocentrism and false evolutionism … which purports that some peoples remain immutably at an earlier stage of human evolution and that their cultures termed primitive only have value as objects of study for anthropologists or, at best, as sources of inspiration for Western artists.13 Address by Chirac.
Aux Sources de la peinture Aborigène: Australie Tjukurrtjanu is the fifty-first special exhibition presented at MQB, a museum that differs from the Musée du Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay insofar as a large proportion of its visitors are French. This ‘first major exhibition devoted to Aboriginal Australian art in France’14 See Veronique Mortaigne, ‘La fabuleuse histoire du rêve de la fourmi a miel: Au Quai Branly, première grande exposition consacrée a l’art aborigène: pointillisme hypnotique et cercles sacrés’, Le Monde, 30 Oct. 2012, p. 19. Translation is author’s own. attests to the importance of Australia’s first peoples who have suffered hugely at the hands of colonisers and have chronically been denied their rightful place in history, both in Australia and throughout the world. Moreover, Tjukurrtjanu was chosen by MQB because of the aesthetic power of the Aboriginal painting movement, appreciable in the works incorporated into the very fabric of the architecture of the Musée’s administration block and into its collection.
MQB celebrates diversity and encourages a polyphonous dialogue between cultures across four continents. A proliferation of extraordinary historical objects is unearthed in dark, labyrinthine spaces, and cul-de-sacs imbued with romance and mystery that open out from a magical wilderness garden. The viewer, like an explorer, enters MQB, ascends the ramp and encounters kingdoms, civilisations and peoples revealed and symbolised by their most powerful ritual objects. Assertive cultural voices resonate as splendid images in a dream sequence often provocatively sequestered from full view. The display is tantalising and crowded with ritual sculptures, feather headdresses from the Amazon, fetish objects, beaded Cameroon sculptures and Central Asian textiles, all spotlit in semi darkness as if in an ever-changing masquerade. Any one of the museum’s African sculptures, Inuit masks or Amazon headdresses is of greater rarity, prestige, provenance and gravitas than comparable examples visible in Australian collections. These fantastic works are displayed en masse, not in grand isolation or illuminated in space. The viewer is hemmed in and dominated by a multiplicity of objects seen close-up in shadowed, semi darkness: an experience of rare immediacy similar to occupying front-row seats at the opera. The viewer connects with the Platonic forms of many of the objects that inspired the Cubists and Surrealists and were ultimately instrumental in a metamorphosis in Western art.
The fact that many of the key moments in the revolution of modernism were staged in Paris, a centre of the avant-garde receptive to the advent of new ideas, underlines the efficacy of presenting Tjukurrtjanu at MQB. The exhibition examines a transformative moment in the history of art, from 1971 to 1972, when a painting practice emerged at Papunya in Central Australia. At this time, the movement’s founding artists publicly recorded and revealed their essentialism with exotic materials and identified themselves as painters. Their groundbreaking, intense and unmediated first paintings heralded a momentous aesthetic experiment in line, dotting, colour and pictorial space. Instead of being quarantined and catalogued as ethnographic artefacts that customarily perform social, ritual or didactic functions, these Aboriginal paintings born of opposition and displacement and possessing startling aesthetic properties were ultimately positioned in the canon of Western contemporary art. Befitting the philosophy of the hosting museum, Tjukurrtjanu confronts all antecedent European interpretations and perspectives of landscape and challenges the former hegemony of Western art and art history.
Being familiar with MQB and the importance of its enviable, primarily historical collections of some 300,000 objects, it was a challenge to prepare for the installation of Tjukurrtjanu in the museum’s La Galerie Jardin. This special exhibitions space composed of labyrinthine curves and curls embraces the rhythm of Jean Nouvel’s original architectural design for MQB. The experienced and accomplished French exhibition designer Didier Blin reconstructed the gallery for the accommodation of Tjukurrtjanu, designing distinct wall structure, exhibition colours, flooring, spatial logic, flow and overall proportions (figs 3 & 4).
Importantly, MQB arranged for Blin to visit Tjukurrtjanu at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and immerse himself in all facets of the exhibition. Within the angular geometry of NGV Australia, Blin distilled the essence of the exhibition and sensed the need for its small paintings to float in space and be suffused with light. He was particularly receptive to the rationale of the exhibition and its sequential logic; the geography of the Western Desert; the power, rhythm and tonality of the individual paintings; and the marked difference between works. Blin sensed the need to create a powerful introductory space that would preface the emergence of a brilliant new painting movement. This element of the exhibition, comprising a body of rare painted shields, spear throwers, stone knives, headbands and ephemeral body ornaments, announces the collectively owned, pre-existing iconographic lexicon visible in the rest of the exhibition. Blin photographed all aspects of the Melbourne installation and collected digital images of all works, objects and texts, including artists’ biographies. A continual email dialogue ensued between MQB and myself in which Blin transmitted drafts of the space, and MQB Exhibition Manager Laura Dragici-Foulon clarified labels and supportive texts and submitted designs for the museum’s facade and posters. Blin’s digital designs of the revamped exhibition space were a challenge to decipher and spatially envisage. I was therefore full of anticipation and tremulous excitement as I finally crossed Pont de l’Alma and saw a sign leading to MQB.
Eventually I caught sight of the breathtaking glass facade featuring some of the iconic paintings and objects from Tjukurrtjanu interspersed with ovals and the shapes of Western Desert shields, or unseen tjurunga (sacred objects). This dramatic and stylish promotion of iconic paintings and objects from the exhibition, which stretched to encompass the entire breadth of the facade, coopted the essential integrity and aesthetics of Tjukurrtjanu to stimulate the imagination and curiosity of the French public. This huge exhibition graphic, designed by publicity agency POLYMAGO, had as its centrepiece a reproduction of John Tjakamarra’s Man Dreaming, 1972, on a red ochre wall bearing signage in white for the special exhibition at MQB (fig. 2). Tjakamarra’s work, selected as the primary promotional emblem of the exhibition, was also reproduced on monumental scale on the front of the MQB bookshop. This singular design of a large ceremonial site surrounded by smaller roundels and delicate dotting accorded perfectly with MQB’s objective to stress the enduring iconography behind the new form of art developed at Papunya in 1971–72. This icon, seemingly both ancient and modern, was also featured against a Wedgwood-blue background on the memorable exhibition posters, designed by publicity agency DREAM ON, and sited on placards throughout Paris’s streets (fig. 5).
Inside La Galerie Jardin, I discovered that the installation design incorporated the same colours as the graphics and of Tjakamarra’s classic work. The exhibition space of some 2000 square metres was more ample than that afforded at NGV Australia and permitted the 260 individual works to cohere, resonate and scintillate. The gallery’s serpentine outer walls, with their fluid curves, echoed the rhythms within the paintings’ iconography. The challenge of the exhibition design was to establish the iconographic sources of the Papunya painting movement and to connect the visual language employed in men’s ritual to its transformation into a modern art form. This was achieved by creating a red ochre introductory section emblematic of Western Desert terrain for the historical objects (fig. 3). This section’s design palette accented the composition and iconography of the objects and their origins in the body of the continent, rather than their shapes and profile. The red ochre walls evoked both the red earth and the colours used in ritual body paintings and objects, heightened by white; colours referenced again in wall texts and the linings of display cases. The placement of the widow’s headdress opposite the Baldwin Spencer photograph of it being worn, and the inclusion of other body ornaments near the footage of the Warlpiri Fire Dreaming ceremony exemplified the bold power and ethereal beauty of designs used in ceremonial contexts, which were the original iconographic sources drawn upon and transformed by the artists in 1971–72.
The red ochre walls preceded a moment of contrast and transition when the first paintings were revealed on stark white walls, giving pride of place to Kaapa Tjampitjinpa’s Men’s ceremony for the Kangaroo, Gulgardi, 1971, which marked the first public acknowledgement of the new art form.15 This work won equal first prize in the Caltex Art Award in Alice Springs in 1971. Thus the exhibition design communicated both subliminally and symbolically that artefact had become art. The paintings of Kaapa, Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, three Anmatyerr artists with similar contact histories, issued directly from the objects made by their Arrernte, Warumangu and Warlpiri forbears.16 This was appropriate given their linguistic and cultural connections, as well as Kaapa’s literal references to men’s ritual objects and designs. The sophisticated Fire Dreamings of Clifford Possum led to another key moment at Papunya, the Honey Ant mural, 1971. This historic mural, since destroyed, was represented in projected archival footage shot by Geoffrey Bardon and further referenced within the exhibition space by the inclusion of works by those associated with the mural, Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri, Long Jack Philippus Tjakamarra and Mick Wallangkarri Tjakamarra.
Following the documentary film footage was the Water Dreaming section devoted to the Kalipinpa iconography of Pintupi artists Walter Tjampitjinpa and Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula (fig. 10). Within this space a dialogue was created with pearl shell pendants collected from the Kimberley coast and then traded inland for use in Water Dreaming ceremonies. The flowing spaces of the exhibition were here subdivided by short feature walls, enabling smaller groups of works to be singled out for special attention, such as Warangkula’s seven most ethereal and complete Water Dreamings, which brought to life the sentient landscape after regenerative rains.
A spacious, square, restricted room with a high veiled ceiling was positioned at the heart of the MQB exhibition, preceded by a narrow section for viewers to access the accompanying publication and the NGV’s Tjukurrtjanu internet microsite. This simple space, which was large enough to enable a linear hang by artist, created a pause for contemplation, enabling the ritual objects viewed at the show’s entrance and overtly depicted in the works to resonate in the mind of the viewer.
Beyond the restricted room unfolded works by a succession of great Pintupi founding artists and ritual leaders whose Country, like that of Warangkula and Walter Tjampitjinpa, lay far to the west of the Anmatyerr people and also of Papunya. This Pintupi selection began with works by optically precise painters John Tjakamarra, Anatjari Tjakamarra and Freddy West Tjakamarra before leading into the extraordinary and diverse works of Timmy Payungka Tjapangati. Cutting through the delicate dotting were small groupings of edgy paintings reminiscent of cave drawings by maverick artists such as Nosepeg Tjupurrula, Tutuma Tjapangati and Wartuma Tjungurrayi, which projected across the space. The extensive bodies of work by consummate and inventive artists Uta Uta Tjangala, Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri (fig. 6) led to a final space celebrating the monumental canvases created between 1974 and 1993, signalling the evolution of the movement towards its the present form (fig. 7).
Viewers’ curiosity for contextual information was amply addressed by photographs of Western Desert terrain and supplementary bilingual texts that included a chronology and artists’ biographies. The provision of a space to consult the exhibition publication and NGV Tjukurrtjanu microsite, of signage for hearing-impaired viewers and a section employing braille, 3-D models and recordings of Pintupi songs for vision-impaired visitors ensured that the differing needs of all visitors were met.
The lighting team, led by Akari Lisa Ishii, was active in the space throughout the eight-day installation period, and began their work with the large canvases and the space immediately before them devoted to Mick Namarari. The team’s method was to first create a wall wash, then spotlight each individual work, before finally affixing filters to achieve a natural impression and caress the exhibits into the space. In tandem with the exhaustive adjustments of the lighting team, a group of installation staff were progressively positioning vinyl wall texts and artists’ biographies, and adjusting diagrams and keyline labels.
The spare and austere spaces of Blin’s simple, bi-chrome exhibition design enabled works by individual artists – signalled by biographies but appropriately grouped in sections – to breathe and have primacy. Some walls were visible as the viewer ascended a ramp into the permanent collection galleries, affording a planar perspective on a selection of large canvases, shields and early paintings from Aux Sources de la peinture Aborigène: Australie Tjukurrtjanu. Such glimpses served to whet the public’s appetite prior to the opening of the show. The exhibition space, incorporating graceful curved walls and a ceiling of varying heights and exposed inner structure, offered intimate and long-range sightlines. Even the colour of the floor was designed to accord with the dominant palette of Western Desert landscape and Papunya Tula painting. Walls were protected by shallow plinths that prevented viewers from touching the delicate surfaces of the works; an architectural detail which had a gratuitous benefit of framing the shields and the paintings.
The Musée du quai Branly was designed by Jean Nouvel, a museum architect best known for technologically refined architecture that distorts the way we perceive the world around us. Nouvel created a modernist gallery that is the perfect analogue for an art that conceptually revisualises the way we perceive the Australian continent. Tjukurrtjanu was comprehensively advantaged by the graceful, intelligent design of Didier and the sublime lighting work of Ishii. The 260 works included enjoyed recognition and also elicited the lavish compliments, intense curiosity and wonderment one has come to expect when the unacquainted eye first encounters these highly spiritual autobiographical works.
My experience of putting this exhibition together began over three decades ago, when I was first introduced to the aesthetic power of Papunya painting. Papunya, the resettlement camp where boredom had slowed down time, enabled the brilliant perception and dexterity of Johnny Warangkula and Kaapa Tjampitjinpa to create the dynamic Honey Ant mural that inaugurated and ultimately catapulted the movement from local to global reception. The pride I felt for these artists and their work while I was in Paris, and the recognition they received there, has left an indelible memory. The immense and convoluted journey from Papunya to Paris, with these tiny masterpieces, has been one of aesthetic enlightenment, spiritual acquaintanceship and at times ethical confrontation. I believe these works represent an overwhelming achievement in the face of excoriating loss, both in their resourcefulness and on their own terms. Paris, the epicentre of modernism and cauldron of much great art, has admitted an exotic and dynamic new guest to its museum walls and both the city and the works of art are the richer for the experience.
Tjukurrtjanu served to realise a career ambition and commitment to position Aboriginal art in the firmament of world art. These works defied the Eurocentric and romantic view of landscape and hierarchical preconceptions of art history that bedevilled me in my Fine Arts studies at the University of Melbourne, concluded prior to the revolution emerging from Papunya Tula in the early 1970s. I am privileged to have been able to take these artists, their memories and their presence from that place of transition to a place where they are synonymous with Australian visual iconicity.
Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, Indigenous Art, NGV (in 2013)
1 Curated by Judith Ryan, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Victoria, and Dr Philip Batty, Senior Curator, Museum Victoria.
2 A selection of significant exhibitions of Aboriginal art presented in major European venues are: D’un autre continent: l’Australie, le rêve et le réel, Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris, 4 Oct. – 4 Dec. 1983; Magiciens de la terre, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou & Grande Halle, Parc de la Villette, Paris, 18 May – 14 Aug. 1989 (part of a huge exhibition of contemporary art); L’Eté Australien à Montpellier, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France, 30 June – Sept. 1990 (part of an exhibition of Australian art); La Biennale di Venezia, XLIV esposizione internazionale d’arte, Venice, 1990 (including work by Trevor Nickolls and Rover Thomas); Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany, 24 April – 4 July 1993, Hayward Gallery, London, 23 July – 10 Oct. 1993, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 11 Feb. – 23 May 1994; Stories: A Journey Around Big Things: Work by 11 Aboriginal Artists, The Holmes à Court Collection, Sprengel Museum, Hanover, 8 March – 30 April 1995, Museum für Volkerkunde zu Leipzig, 9 May – 10 June 1995, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 16 June – 10 Sept. 1995, Ludwig-Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, 22 Sept. – 23 Nov. 1995; Fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson, 47th Venice Biennale, Australian Pavilion, Venice, 15 June – 9 Nov. 1997; Peintres aborigènes d’Australie, Parc de la Villette, Paris, 26 Nov. 1997– 11 Jan. 1998; Aboriginal Art to Europe (organised by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra), Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Oct. 1999 – Jan. 2000, Hermitage, St Petersburg, 2 Feb. – 9 April 2000; ‘rarrk’ John Mawurndjul: Journey Through Time in Northern Australia, Museum Tinguely, Basel, 21 Sept. 2005 – 29 Jan. 2006, Sprengel Museum Hanover, 19 Feb. – 5 June 2006; Remembering Forward: Australian Aboriginal Painting since 1960, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 20 Nov. 2010 – 20 March 2011.
3 André Breton, preface to Karel Kupka, Dawn of Art: Painting and Sculpture of Australian Aborigines, Angus & Robertson, 1965, p. 10.
4 See Fred R. Myers, ‘Uncertain regard: an exhibition of Aboriginal art in France’, Ethnos, vol. 63, no. 1, 1998, p. 15.
5 An English translation, The Dawn of Art Painting and Sculpture of Australian Aboriginies, was published by Cheshire, Melbourne, in 1965.
6 See Christian Kaufmann, ‘Aboriginal art from Arnhem Land – why in Basel?’, in Christian Kaufmann (ed.), ‘rarrk’ John Mawurndjul: Journey Through Time in Northern Australia, Schwabe, Basel, 2005, p. 224, note 8.
7 Myers, p. 15.
8 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 May 1981 – 21 June 1981, curated by Bernice Murphy.
9 Myers, p. 21.
10 Address by Jacques Chirac at the opening of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, 20 June 2006.
12 Wall text, Musée du Louvre, Paris, transcribed by author June 2006.
13 Address by Chirac.
14 See Veronique Mortaigne, ‘La fabuleuse histoire du rêve de la fourmi a miel: Au Quai Branly, première grande exposition consacrée a l’art aborigène: pointillisme hypnotique et cercles sacrés’, Le Monde, 30 Oct. 2012, p. 19. Translation is author’s own.
15 This work won equal first prize in the Caltex Art Award in Alice Springs in 1971.
16 This was appropriate given their linguistic and cultural connections, as well as Kaapa’s literal references to men’s ritual objects and designs.