New Writing on Aboriginal Art

Keep your eyes peeled for the inaugural issue of Australian Aboriginal Art: an international quarterly magazine, due to go on sale on March 11, 2009. I first heard about it during my recent weekend at Cornell for the opening of Icons of the Desert, an event that will be featured in the magazine’s premiere. I had the good fortune to share an evening’s meal and an equally nourishing conversation with Stephen Oxenbury, whose photographs (including the portrait of Papunya Tula artist Joseph Jurra Tjapaltjarri, left) will grace the pages of this new publication. The Cornell exhibition will be one of the features, with contributions by Fred Myers and Roger Benjamin along with Oxenbury’s stunning photographs of the event.

The list of other contributors to the first issue reads like a who’s who of experts on Indigenous art, beginning with Judith Ryan of the NGV and Brenda Croft, late of the NGA. Sasha Griffin, Professor of Art History at ANU joins Myers and Benjamin in the ranks of academic contributors. Alison French, also from ANU (at the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research) bridges the academic and curatorial expertise on offer with a contribution on Albert Namatjira. The curatorial ranks are augmented by contributors Zara Stanhope of the Heide Museum and Georges Petitjean of Utrecht’s Aboriginal Art Museum. Rounding out the slate of authors for the debut are Susan and Emily McCulloch, publishers ofThe New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art and authors of guides to collecting Aboriginal art (and collections of it as well).

In addition to the pieces on Icons and Namatjira, articles include studies of Bidyadanga artist Daniel Walbidi and photographer Destiny Deacon, as well as what promises to be a fascinating story of a collaboration between Mangkaja Arts doyenne Wakartu Cory Surprise and Ildiko Kovacs, whose work was featured in an exhibition mixing Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, Paint, at Raft Gallery in Darwin last June. 

Australian Aboriginal Art promises to be a great adventure and a long-overdue forum for serious writing from a broad range of perspectives. I can hardly wait to see it.

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