NGV Triennial

Tony Albert
Nguma and Yabu



Tony Albert creates a second life for those captured in ‘Aboriginalia’ – a term Albert uses to describe kitsch objects and images that feature portrayals of Aboriginal people and cultural materials.

Recast from Albert’s vast collection of objects showing racist and often vulgar depictions of Aboriginal people and culture, Nguma 2020 and Yabu 2020 are powerful lamps that interrogate contemporary legacies of colonialism. Translating to father (nguma) and mother (yabu) in Girrimay, one of the artist’s ancestral languages, Albert names the individuals and releases them from their racist caricatures.

In these lighting designs, glass acts as a medium that urges us to recognise the invisible forces that influence us. Glass is both fragile and strong, and like racism, it can be shattered.

This is the first contemporary lighting design made by an Indigenous practitioner to enter the NGV Collection. The work belongs to a collection of contemporary art and design works assembled for the NGV Triennial 2020 ‘floor of light’.

Tony Albert is a contemporary artist working in a wide range of mediums including painting, photography and mixed media. His practice interrogates contemporary legacies of colonialism in a way that prompts the audience to contemplate their own perceptions on First Nation Peoples. Albert’s technique and imagery is distinctly contemporary, displacing traditional Australian Aboriginal aesthetics with ‘Aboriginalia’.

Albert presented his first major institutional solo exhibition, Visible, at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in 2018. He was the recipient of the 2016 Fleurieu Art Prize, 2014 Basil Sellers Art Prize and 2014 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Award. In 2013 Albert was commissioned to create a large-scale sculpture for the Sydney Hyde Park War Memorial to commemorate indigenous soldiers.