Last opportunity to experience ‘Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert’, the rarely seen art of the Western Desert Aboriginal culture concludes its stay at the Australian Museum on 2 November 2008.

This extraordinary exhibition brings together, for the first time in a major public exhibition, some of the early masterpieces of the renowned Papunya Tula art movement.

The National Museum of Australia developed and presented the exhibition which attracted almost 50,000 visitors to the National Museum in Canberra last year.

In the 1970s and early 1980s Central and Western Desert artists at Papunya, in Australia’s Northern Territory, created a body of work that transformed understandings of Aboriginal art. On large canvases and suitcase-sized boards they experimented with colour and style to tell their Dreaming stories linked to land, history and culture.

Now Sydney audiences will have the opportunity to view 40 of these powerful paintings and 20 cultural objects in Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert. For children there is a special honey-ant trail to follow and drawing activities. Visitors will not only marvel at the impressive scale and beauty of the designs – many of the paintings tower over 2 metres tall and 3 metres wide “ but they will also have the rare chance to discover the real meanings behind these significant artworks.

While Papunya-style art and ‘dot patterning’ has become identified with Australia, few people are aware of the history and culture behind the development of this signature design.

Consultation and collaboration with community elders and artists has endowed the exhibition with personal stories and opinions that help to provide an absorbing cultural and historical context for these works.

From stories of ancestral ties and cultural landscapes to religious, social and family relationships “ these are not just artworks; they reveal the lives and experiences of the artists who made them. And in doing so, they compel visitors to revisit their understanding of the Papunya art movement, as well as the significance of the artists who participated in it. Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum, said “This is an important exhibition offering a unique and fascinating insight into the stories behind the works and behind the artists lives.”

Craddock Morton, Director of the National Museum of Australia, said “We are delighted to work with the Australian Museum to give Sydney audiences an opportunity to see Papunya Painting which was so popular in Canberra. We are actively seeking other venues for the exhibition both within Australia and overseas.”

‘Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert’ closes on 2 November 2008 at the Australian Museum. Admission (including general Museum entry): $15 adult; $10 concession; $7 child (5 “ 15 years); Free for children under 5 years of age.

WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this exhibition includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

View Papunya Painting – Out of the Desert exhibition
View Papunya Painting – Out of the Desert exhibition slideshow