The second year of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair was, according to everyone, a rousing success and a large step forward from the inaugural event held a year ago. Nineteen art centres participated and the new venue in the Darwin Convention Centre (actually in the same rooms where the MAGNT Foundation dinner in honor of George Chaloupka was held the night before the Fair’s opening on August 14) was judged to have contributed to the success of the event.
The Fair was officially opened by Marion Scrymgour, whose re-election to the post of Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory had been confirmed scant hours beforehand. Looking back now I can see her remarks as the first of many that would be made by a variety of speakers over the course of the weekend to commend the works and the importance of art centres to the sustenance of Indigenous artists.
Certainly, the evidence of the art on display with the hall was hard to argue with. I understand that last year’s exhibition focused on what was characterized as the “low end” of the art centres’ offerings. While there were certainly good bargains to be had this year, and the very nature of the display spaces seemed to favor works of a modest size, this was not a bargain market by any means. In a quick circuit of the room I saw a cross section of works by artists that would have constituted a major exhibition if the venue had been a state gallery.
Papunya Tula Artists had canvases by Makinti Napanangka and Patrick Tjungurrayi, Doreen Reid Nakamarra and Johnny Yungut. Warmun Art had brought a significant work by Jack Britten. Regina Wilson’s paintings graced the walls of Durrmu Art’s booth, while large works by Paddy Japaljarri Sims and Judy Napangardi Watson hung at Warlukurlangu Artists.
One wall of the hall was occupied by the members of the new Kimberley Aboriginal Artists: Waringarri, Warmun, Mangkaja, and Mowanjum. The presence of Gab Titiu Cultural Centre from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait was a welcome surprise; Tjanpi Weavers lent an air of whimsy and delight; and representatives from the Western Desert Mob were getting ready to join forces with their Kimberley associates for the kickoff of the “Buy Right Way” campaign, already in evidence with t-shirts for sale at several booths.
The excitement of the participants was irresistible; it took me several circuits of the room before I was able to settle down at all and really look at the work that was on offer. (My first selection was another of the lovely, miniature works that are coming out of Warakurna Artists, produced variously by emerging artists, children, and pensioners in theWanarn Aged Care Art Program.)
Eventually I realized that I needed to start taking some photographs of the event. I was able to capture fewer than half the participants, as I was too shy to fight my way through crowds of buyers to ask permission to take a picture, or I got distracted on running into friends. Eventually, after several hours on the floor, I needed to find food, which was unfortunately in short supply (or more precisely, completely unavailable) at the Convention Centre or environs. So with my apologies to those I missed, here’s a selection of the participants, presented alphabetically by art centre.
Liz Laverty chats with Jackey Coyle-Taylor of Warmun Art Centre