Aboriginal art today! provides a fascinating overview of the evolution of contemporary Aboriginal art from its beginnings in1971 right up to its most recent developments. What is particularly significant is that all the works featured in this exhibition come from Dutch collections. Besides the 550-strong collection of the dedicated Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Utrecht (AAMU), these include works from the Groninger Museum “ which received gifts of art from the Aboriginal Arts Board in Australia in the 70s, the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam specialising in urban artists, the University Museum Groningen and the ethnographically-based Nijmeegs Volkenkundig Museum. The AAMU also has access to various private collections “ notably the famous Thomas Vrooms Collection. This is the first time that key works from all of these collections, which have been loaned to AAMU on a long-term basis, have been brought together in one exhibition.
In Aboriginal art today! the various regions and art centres are explored in detail, against a backdrop of historical events which played a crucial role in the development of contemporary Aboriginal art.
Artists in the exhibition:
This exhibition will of course feature those artists who have become icons of Australian Aboriginal art. Emily Kame Kngwarreye represented Australia posthumously at the 1997 Venice Biennale and recently had solo shows in Japan. John Mawurndjul received international acclaim for his imposing bark paintings. In Europe solo exhibitions of his work were held at the Sprengel Museum in Hannover (2006) and the Tinguely Museum in Basel (2005). He features too in the Musee du quai Branly in Paris. Rover Thomas, the Picasso of the East Kimberley, invented a whole new way of painting country and both mythic and personal stories. Together with Trevor Nickolls he was the first Aboriginal artist to be selected for the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1990. Lesser-known names who feature with striking works of art include Katarra Nampitjinpa, Timmy Payungka, Wimmitji Tjapangati, Pulpurru Davis and Alma Webou. Brook Andrew took over the whole AAMU last year with his solo show, Theme Park and op-art images of it feature in this show’s catalogue. Also to be found there are photos of the Welcoming Ceremony that accompanied the arrival of a magnificent set of Law Poles from Aurukun on Cape York in 2007. Finally, Wakartu Cory Surprise is making waves at the moment – a prize winner at the Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards last year. Her work Pitmarlu (2009) is a recent addition to the AAMU collection.

A richly illustrated museum catalogue entitled Contemporary Aboriginal Art, the AAMU and Dutch collections is released simultaneously with the opening of this exhibition. The author is Dr Georges Petitjean, the AAMU’s curator, and it’s published in both Dutch and English in collaboration with Snoeck Publishers. English edition: ISBN 978-90-5349-788-3, € 34.