David Elliott, director of the 17th Biennale of Sydney later this year, scratched an old sore today in launching his forthcoming feast of visual arts by asserting that all art is folk art.
As a major feature of his BOS is indigenous art from Australia and the Americas, he seemed unaware that many a European curator in the late 20th Century dismissed Aboriginal art from Australia as ‘merely folk art’ and refused it entry to artfairs, exhibitions, etc.
Perhaps the greatest excitement about this year’s Biennale will be the four Native American artists “ in Canada, their work is also referred to as Aboriginal art. Their work is a major feature of this year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver “ but is almost unknown in Australia. Experiencing the work of Dana Claxton, Beau Dick, Kent Monkman and Annie Pootoogook will be a fascinating ground for comparison. Hopefully the artists will visit too.
There will also be an influx from Arnhemland “ via Perth. In 2000, businessman Kerry Stokes set his cap on a great collection of Yolgnu larrikitj “ the bone coffins in hollowed tree trunks that used to be an essential part of mortuary rituals in the far north. Indeed, they were first noted at Blue Mud Bay by Matthew Flinders on his circumnavigation in 1802. They still have important ceremonial designs on the sides, and the 110 larrikitj by 41 different artists “ including such names as Gawirrin Gumana, Djambawa Marawili, Dhurrumuwuy Marika and Gulumbu Yunupingu – should be a stunning sight in ‘forest’ formation in Sydney.
Ideally they should be placed on the Sydney Opera House forecourt as a symbolic prelude to a permanent memorial to the Eora Nation which is to be created by curator Djon Mundine. The so-called Tarpeian Rock separating the Botanical Gardens from the SOH will be carved with representations of the two local men who offered the most disparate images of Aboriginal Australia to the first colonists…Benelong and Pemulwuy; the man who offered the hand of friendship, and the man who never laid down his arms. They’re a bit like Cain and Able, assessed Mundine; the one who engaged and the one who resisted. We’re hoping to engrave them about 5 metres tall.
Other Australian indigenous artists in the potentially indigestible, 175 artist event “ running from May until August “ are Brook Andrew, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Fiona Foley, Christopher Pease and Christian Thompson.
Artist: Brook Andrew, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Fiona Foley, Christopher Pease, Christian Thompson, Gawirrin Gumana, Djambawa Marawili, Dana Claxton, Beau Dick, Kent Monkman, Annie Pootoogook, Malaluba Gumana, Gulumbu Yunupingu, Baluka Maymuru, Napuwarri Marawili, Nawurapu Wunungmurra, Miniyawany Yunupingu, Djirrirra Wunungmurra, Wukun Wanambi, Dhurrumuwuy Marika, Buwathay Munyarryun
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