Art enthusiasts in China are about to get what for many will be their first look at quintessential Aboriginal art.

A new exhibition, Papunya Painting: Out of the Australian Desert, opens at the National Art Museum of China on Wednesday night.

Almost 50 works, and 18 ethnographic objects, from the National Museum of Australia’s immense western desert collection will be on display there until August.

The Canberra museum’s director Andrew Sayers said major canvases by some of the nation’s best known Papunya artists, such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, will be on display in Beijing.

“It’s a great introduction for the Chinese audience to the classic moment in western desert painting,” he told AAP from Beijing.

Mr Sayers said many Chinese hadn’t seen Aboriginal art of such historical significance before, but were keen to get their first look.

“For many people here it is quite a new experience.

“It’s also an artform that the Chinese audience is very interested in, to try and understand how Aboriginal art works, in terms of iconography and how it coveys its message.

“There’s a lot of interest in the stories surrounding each painting.”