Remember that we’ve been promised a National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs for many a year now, well it doesn’t look as though it’ll actually appear until 2028. This is reported by The Alice Springs News, a lively local online journal, based upon an NT Government tender for fundraising in May which stated: “The gallery is currently in development and due to open in 2028”.

Now, from the Territory Families, Housing and Communities Department comes a statement which does not include that completion date:

“The National Aboriginal Art Gallery is in the development design phase of the project.
Key project updates include:
• The Northern Territory Government acquisition of the Anzac Oval site and initial consultation with Traditional Owners, community members and key stakeholders is complete.
• Re-zoning of the site is underway, with written submissions about the proposed planning scheme amendment due to close on July 7.
• Design of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery is at 15% completion, with 100% of the design projected by May 2024.
• Geotech investigations of the site will commence shortly.
• A four-week public consultation period on the gallery’s future operations (programs and exhibitions) is also planned (but undated).

The total committed funds for the gallery is $149m – $69m from the NT Government (which seems to plan fund-raising rather than paying from revenue) and $80m from the Australian Government.

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery will draw on the wealth of collections of First Nations Art held nationwide and internationally (as it will not have its own collection). In addition, the gallery will feature touring exhibitions and exhibitions created in partnership with other galleries, artists, art centres, and communities.

Meanwhile, in more positive news from Mparntwe, Desart, the peak body for 38 central Australian Aboriginal Art Centres, has announced that Desert Mob will return to Alice Springs from 7 September to 22 October. A vibrant statement of contemporary cultural expression, the Desert Mob 2023 will feature the work of 34 art centres, each art centre selecting the work to be shown. This unique exhibition and related events brings together communities from a geographic area that spans 1.221 million kilometres and sixteen languages.

For its 32nd edition, Desert Mob 2023 will be co-curated by Hetti Perkins (Arrernte and Kalkadoon) and Aspen Nampin Beattie (Luritja, Warumungu and Yawuru) bringing together hundreds of new works by emerging and established artists.

The 2023 event marks the second year of First Nations ownership, with Desart assuming management in 2022. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the incorporation of Desart. Philip Watkins, CEO of Desart, said: “Desart is delighted to again present Desert Mob in Mparntwe and celebrate Aboriginal art and culture in the heart of the desert.
“As well as exhibiting 34 art centres in 2023, we welcome back the Symposium and again present the popular Marketplace – and an expanded program of public activities and satellite events across the opening weekend and throughout the exhibition”.

Returning for the first time since the COVID break in 2020, the Desert Mob Symposium will be hosted on Friday 8 September at the Araluen Arts Centre presenting an opportunity for audiences to hear directy from Aboriginal artists about their work, projects, family and country. A day of presentations by art centres and special guests, the symposium will offer context to the event through interviews, film, and performance.

The Desert Mob Marketplace will take place on Saturday 9 September at the Araluen Arts Centre with paintings, ceramics, punu, weaving, sculpture, textiles, clothing, jewellery and homewares from Aboriginal owned art centres across Central Australia. The art market will include food stalls, workshops and performances.

Arlpwe Art & Culture Centre – Ali Curung NT
Artists of Ampilatwatja – Ampilatwatja NT
Barkly Regional Arts – Tennant Creek NT
Bindi Mwerre Anthurre Artists – Mparntwe (Alice Springs) NT
Ernabella Arts, Pukutja (Ernabella) SA
Greenbush Art Group – Mparntwe NT
Hermannsburg Potters – Ntaria (Hermannsburg) NT
Ikuntji Artists – Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) NT
Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre – Mparntwe NT
Iwantja Arts – Iwantja (Indulkana) SA
Kaltjiti Arts – Kaltjiti (Fregon) SA
Keringke Arts – Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) NT
Ltyentye Apurte Traditional Craft Centre – Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) NT
Martumili Artists – Parnpajinya (Newman) WA
Maruku Arts – Mutitjulu & Uluru NT
Mimili Maku Arts – Mimili SA
Minyma Kutjara Arts Project – Irrunytju (Wingellina) WA
Ninuku Arts – Kalka SA
Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Culture Centre – Tennant Creek NT
Papunya Tjupi Arts – Papunya NT
Papunya Tula Artists – based in Mparntwe NT
Spinifex Arts Project – Tjuntjuntjara WA
Tangentyere Artists – Mparntwe NT
Tapatjatjaka Art & Craft – Titjikala NT
Tjala Arts – Amata SA
Tjanpi Desert Weavers – based in Mparntwe NT
Tjarlirli Art – Kaltukatjara & Tjukurla, WA
Tjungu Palya – Nyapari SA
Utopia Art Centre – Arlparra NT
Walkatjara Art – Mutitjulu & Uluru NT
Warakurna Artists – Warakurna (Giles) WA
Warlayirti Artists – Wirrimanu (Balgo) WA
Warlukurlangu Artists – Yuendumu NT
Yarrenyty Arltere Artists – Mparntwe NT

Apparently, the controversial APY Art Centre Collective has not been invited to Desert Mob as it has been in the past. Individual APY art centres are there though.

Also noted for your calendars, the National Indigenous Art Fair takes place in Sydney next weekend – 1 & 2 July. The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair happens in FNQ from 13 to 16 July. And the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair completes the series from 11 to 13 August in the sunny NT.