Bon Voyage: Aboriginal Summer 2006, France, UK, and USA

In just over a day’s time from now, Harvey and I will be on our way to Europe, our ultimate destination there the opening of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris on June 23. This has been an event we’ve been eagerly awaiting since December of 2004 when Apolline Kohen contacted us with the surprising (nay, flabbergasting) news that John Mawurndjul has selected a painting that we had purchased a year and a half earlier from the Arts Centre, Mardayin at Milmilngkan, to be reproduced on one of the ceilings of the museum’s new administrative building. The architects needed a 4×5 transparency of the painting to be used in the creation of what would be a 300-square-meter reproduction of the painting, and even though the request reached us less than a week before Christmas, we found a professional photographer who was able to accommodate us quickly. By Christmas Eve, the slides were on their way to Sydney.

And now, at last, we’re on our way to Paris. Although the opening of the Musee is an international event, with countries from all over the world contributing to the celebration, for us the new “Australian building” has always been the focal point. And the news reports have certainly made more out of the Australian contribution to the debut than any other. According to an article by Susan Owens published in the June 8 edition of the Australian Financial Review, there are several galleries around Paris mounting shows of Aboriginal art, among them Mary Durack’s Contemporary Aboriginal Art (works from Oenpelli on display during opening week), Luc Berthier’s African Muse Gallery (barks from Maningrida, opening June 23) and Laure Churchette’s Espace Ab’origene (a Central Desert miscellany opening June 26). Galerie dad in Mantes-la-Jolie, 55 km northwest of Paris on the way to Giverny, is presenting Arts d’Oceanie, a melange of works from Australian Aboriginal artists along with sculptures from Vanuatu. Lauraine Diggins is mounting a show as well.

The piece de resistance, however, will be the exhibition of the Gabrielle Pizzi collection at the Australian Embassy in Paris, also opening on June 23 to coincide with the public opening of the MQB. 

Before Paris, we’re stopping in London, which is a shame because just a few days after the MQB festivities, a major exhibition of works from Papunya Tula goes up for sale at the Hamilton Galleries in London’s Mayfair section (there’s a downloadable catalogue on the website). Proceeds from the sale will be used to support a dialysis project in Alice Springs.

Instead of tripping off to London, we’ll be heading back to the USA for the opening of Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. Eighty paintings by 32 women artists will be on display throughout the summer here before traveling to Dartmouth University in September. I’ve seen an advance list of the paintings in the show, and it will be a knockout of an exhibition, with a fully illustrated catalog. Franchesca Cubillo from the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory gives the opening address on June 29, after a day that includes gallery talks by Colin Laverty, Margaret Levi, Robert Kaplan, co-curators Margo Smith of the Kluge Ruhe and Britta Konau of NMWA, and yours truly, who is truly honored to be in such company.

I hope to be able to post while we’re on the road, something I haven’t tried before. Should the world-wide reach of the web fail me on that score though, I’ll have plenty to share with you on our return. 

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