Contemporary Aboriginal Painting Installation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An installation of 14 bold and colorful paintings created by contemporary Aboriginal Australian artists will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on December 15. Drawn from a U. S. private collection, Contemporary Aboriginal Painting from Australia will provide an introduction to Aboriginal painting, which has become Australia’s most celebrated contemporary art movement and has attained prominence within the international art world.

The installation will present works created primarily over the past decade by artists from the central desert, where the contemporary painting movement began, and from adjoining regions, to which the movement spread. The works on view—all of which have never before been on public display—will feature paintings by prominent artists, including some of the founders of the contemporary movement, as well as emerging figures. This is the first presentation of contemporary Australian Aboriginal painting to be held at the Metropolitan Museum.

This presentation is made possible through the generosity of the Friends of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

The origins of Australia’s contemporary Aboriginal art movement can be traced largely to the remote desert community of Papunya in the Northern Territory. Here, in the early 1970s, with the encouragement of a local Euro-Australian schoolteacher, a group of Aboriginal men began to paint images from their sacred narratives and ceremonial life. Following the success in Papunya, artists of both sexes in other desert communities began to paint. Initially, most of the painters adopted the colorful, densely dotted style that became the hallmark of desert acrylic painting. At the same time, painters from neighboring areas, such as the Kimberley region of Western Australia, began to produce works on canvas employing different local styles.

Works on view will include: Sons and Orphans Near Kurlkurta by Anatjari Tjakamarra (ca. 1930–1992), depicting the journeys of ancestral beings through a complex composition of vibrant geometric motifs; Watiya-Tjuta by Mitjili Napurrula (born ca. 1945), a boldly colored canvas with rows of stylized foliate motifs showing trees, which are used for making spears; and Queensland Creek (Merrmerrji) by Paddy Bedford (ca. 1922-2007), whose stark minimalist works show both natural and supernatural features of the landscape.

Contemporary Aboriginal Painting from Australia is organized by Eric Kjellgren, the Evelyn A. J. Hall and John A. Friede Associate Curator for Oceanic Art in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

Open: December 15, 2009 – June 13, 2010
Location: The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing corridor, first floor, opposite Modern Art

A variety of educational programs will be offered in conjunction with the installation.

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