Aboriginal art to embellish Parisian landmark

2nd June 2006, Comments 0 comments

SYDNEY, June 2, 2006 (AFP) - Australian Aboriginal art will stamp its imprint on the Parisian landscape when the new Musée du quai Branly opens on the banks of the Seine in June.

SYDNEY, June 2, 2006 (AFP) - Australian Aboriginal art will stamp its imprint on the Parisian landscape when the new Musée du quai Branly opens on the banks of the Seine in June.

But the curators and artists behind the Australia-France collaboration, hope that by vaulting Aboriginal art onto Paris' cultural landscape they will gain greater respect for their work at home.

Eight designs by Aboriginal artists will cover some 2,500 square metres of the museum's facade, walls and ceilings in one of four buildings dedicated to the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

"People will be immediately impressed by the works. They've exceeded our expectations," said co-curator, Hetti Perkins, who described the commission as a milestone in the global recognition of Aboriginal art.

Ningura Napurrula, an artist from central Australia's desert lands, will not be going to the unveiling of her work on the building which will be opened by French President Jacques Chirac on June 20.

But she is delighted that it will be given an audience in Europe so that the wider world will know about her country, she told AFP in her native Pintupi language through an interpreter at a Sydney preview.

Napurrula, who is aged about 68, only began painting canvasses a decade ago, with her works of thickly applied paint echoing the ceremonial adornments of Aboriginal women.

"They won't understand straight away but slowly they will understand," she says of her international audience. "They will have to listen."

Perkins wants other Australians to listen as well.

She said that it was hoped that the French commission would spur greater interest in Aboriginal art at home where until now the approach had been "piecemeal and ad hoc".

"I think there's been a lot of interest in the past but I think what's been lacking until now, and possibly still is, is the kind of government support to get behind it and to look at supporting indigenous artists," she said.

"Really what indigenous artists would like is for all Australians to come together and walk together and to value and respect this wonderful cultural heritage.

"It kind of shows a further incentive for all Australians to really embrace indigenous art."

Perkins said the commission was completed by painters who were trained by the artists over a four-year collaboration period.

Artist Gulumbu Yunupingu from Arnhem Land in Australia's north, whose work is embedded in the stories of her ancestors, sees the museum as "showing and telling the world" about Aboriginal art.

"This is for the people, that they might recognise Yolngu (northeast Arnhem land) people. This is good for them to recognise us," she said.

"Before they were so blind to people like myself, my work, my time; but now they can open their eyes."

Men in Australian Aboriginal settlements, by far the most disadvantaged communities in the country, began painting on canvas in the 1970s and in the 1990s it became a more female practice.

But the images and designs of Aboriginal art, seen on rock and bark paintings, have long served to express territorial claims, family relationships, ancestral histories, social mores and other concepts in cultures with many spoken but, until recently, no written languages.

The works in Paris include Napurrula's depiction of a significant women's site in her region, where rock embedded waterholes are shown in a landscape of sandhills and windbreaks.

Yunupingu's work, reflecting the infinite expanse of the universe through a star-filled night sky, is described as a metaphor for the unity of all people.

Aboriginal art's unique vision of the world has gained an increasing stature both at home and abroad in recent years.

At a Sotheby's auction in Melbourne last year, 195 works sold for a total of AUS $4.8 million dollars, with 42 percent bought by overseas bidders.

Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney, Roger Benjamin, said after the auction that Aboriginal art now accounted for more than 50 percent of all art sales in Australia.

Despite Aboriginal art in its present form having a history of less than half a century, Benjamin says some of its exponents rank among the world's great artists.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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