Media Release
27 May 2008

Dick Bett AM curates Auckland exhibition of leading Aboriginal Art

Auckland’s art lovers are gearing up for an exhibition of some of the finest Aboriginal art the city has ever seen. Between 5 and 14 June, the exhibition Contemporary Aboriginal Masterpieces at Webb’s Fine Art will showcase a collection of leading Australian Aboriginal works curated by gallerist Dick Bett AM.

This is a show of works by artists with national and international reputations – the very best of Aboriginal art, says New-Zealand born Bett. Once director of New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Gallery, Bett now runs the respected Bett Gallery Hobart. Bett is one of Australia’s leading experts in Aboriginal artworks, and one of only a handful of specialist valuers of Aboriginal art. He was recently appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Art.

The exhibition is a compendium of 23 significant works by artists from the Eastern and Western Deserts of Central Australia as well as Lockhart River in far north Queensland, showing predominantly traditional designs from the artists’ own dreamings, ceremonies and law.

Highlights include the sinuous curves of Bush Yam Dreaming 1984 by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (b. c1910-1966), a highly collectable artist from the Northern Territory community of Utopia, who only began painting in the last 10 years of her life. When Emily died, says Bett, it’s said she had some 400 motor cars registered to her name “illustrating just how strongly successful Aboriginal painters support their immediate communities.

There are also the mesmeric designs in Swamps at Nyrripi by Western Desert artist Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri (b. c1948-), winner of the prestigious Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Art Award in 2006; and another Telstra winner the hypnotic Mina Mina by Dorothy Robinson Napangardi (b. c1958), representing the shimmering landscapes of remote Northern Territory salt pans.

The Bush Melon Seed paintings by another Utopian artistic phenomenon Minnie Pwerle (b. c1915-2006) translate the Bush Melon Dreaming body paint designs vibrantly onto canvas. Paintings like these have a lifetime and more of traditional culture behind them, says Bett.

None of the painters in the exhibition has lived more traditionally than Walala Tjapaltjarri (c1969-). The artist was one of a group of Pintupi people who made first contact with present-day, non-indigenous Australian society when they walked out of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia in 1984. His art depicts sacred mythological ceremonies describing the journeys of the Ancestors in the Tjukkurpa (Dreamtime).

This is a collection from the most exciting frontier in the art world, says Bett.

Events around Contemporary Aboriginal Masterpieces:

Exhibition Opening: Thursday 5 June 6pm – 8pm, Webb’s Fine Art, 18 Mankau Rd, New Market, Auckland

Exhibition Tour & Discussion: Friday 6 June, 1pm. An introduction to contemporary Aboriginal Art with exhibition curator, Dick Bett AM

Radio interview: listen to Dick Bett talk with Lynn Freeman in Arts on Sunday on radio New Zealand, Sun 8 June between 12.30pm and 2pm. Bett will discuss investing in art and talk about the many successful art collecting groups he runs.