A follow-up to my Menil Collection story from Houston “ for my enthusiasm for America’s current positivity towards Aboriginal art may have allowed me to miss the Big Story.
Which is the significant emergence of the Fondation Opale at Lens in snowy Switzerland.
For, despite an apparent history involving an ex-husband, the Opale is all about the appearance of Ms Berengere Primat in her own glorious right as the builder of what has been called one of the most significant collections, if not the most significant in private hands. And the claim is justified: As you know, many major collections (Laverty, Thomas Vroom, ¦) were dispersed. There is, of course, Holmes Ã Court, Kerry Stokes, etc., but this is a particularly diverse and active collection going back from the roots till the very recent developments with some of the movement’s most iconic works. And it’s been built up over the last 15 years.
The bold claimant is none other than Georges Petitjean – formerly of the delightful little specialist AAMU gallery in Utrecht which closed. Now he is Opale’s curator. He went on to explain that a confusion of Fondations that I mentioned in the original article had nothing to do with Aboriginal art. But one, the Fondation Pierre Arnaud had the building erected and it only ever showed one exhibition of Aboriginal art “ lent by Berengere. Its own collection was of Swiss landscape painting. When it went bust “ sorry, Swiss landscape “ Ms Primat seized on the building, which just happened to be down the road from her own home.
Bold plans “ never possible for the domestic AAMU “ are now afloat: The Fondation Opale aims to provide an active and dynamic basis for contemporary Indigenous Australian art through groundbreaking exhibitions, high-quality catalogues and publications, artist-in-residence positions, scholarly research, lectures and participation in a wide range of cultural and artistic events. The engagement and the collection have only grown exponentially over the last year.
And, since the Fondation “ based on Primat’s French industrialist family’s money, but named after the Aussie opal, not the French car “ only came into being with the acquisition of the building last December, they are obviously capable of fast and decisive action in both creating this major exhibition for the Menil and mounting their own show, Before Time Began from the collection in Lens, in the time it takes an Aussie institutional curator to blow their nose!