Many indigenous art aficionados who often buy Australian souvenirs are mistaken in thinking they can only enjoy the display of Aboriginal art within the expansive island in which the art originated from. Whether it’s Switzerland, the Netherlands, France or the United States – a host of international museums now have designated spaces or entire institutions dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of these ancient art practices.
Below are 4 international museums that pay homage to Aboriginal art:
1. Musée du Quai Branly
Location: Paris, France
This museum has a designated space for an ‘Oceania’ collection, featuring works by Australian Aboriginal artists such as Lena Nyadbi, Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford, Judy Watson, Gulumbu Yunupingu, John Mawurndjul, Tommy Watson, Ningura Napurrula and Michael Riley.
A long, winding walkway spirals up from the museum’s reception to its hall where the permanent Oceania collection is housed – taking visitors on a journey between the major civilisations of Australia, Melanesia, Polynesia and Insulindia while illuminating them with artefacts gathered together by 19th century travellers on ethnographic missions.
The Australian collection of indigenous art contains an exhibition of more than fifty eucalyptus bark paintings collated in the 1960s of shields, spear-throwers and contemporary acrylic paintings encompassing Aboriginal traditions. Multimedia equipment in the background enhances the feeling of yesteryears as it evokes production sites, artists and ‘Dreamtime’ stories.
2. Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
This museum recently commemorated ten years as an institution that raised exposure for Aboriginal art, film and performing arts. At the base of its collection are artworks that were acquired during the twentieth century. Apart from that, purchases made annually broaden the collection every year.
Institutional collections from the Groninger Museum, University Museum Gerardus van der Leeuw Rijksunversiteit of Groningen, the Ethnographic Museum of Nijmegen Radboud University and the World Museum Rotterdam which are on long-term loans complete the collection.
3. University of Virginia
Location: Virginia, USA
This university is home to the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection and remains the only museum in the United States devoted to the study and interpretation of Australian Aboriginal art. The university is dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of Australia’s indigenous people, their art and their culture by working closely with indigenous artists, international scholars and art professionals.
A free guided tour is held everyday at the museum at 1pm for all purveyors and aficionados of Aboriginal art. The museum plays an active role in preservation efforts of Aboriginal art as it recently nominated a bark painting of its own to participate in Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artefacts competition. The bark painting, Dkarrakpi Story (1996) by Narritjin Maymuru, was selected as a winner. Maymuru will be bequeathed with assistance to launch a fundraising campaign to restore the artefact.
4. Museum for Australian Aboriginal Art ‘La Grange’
Location: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
This Swiss museum is one of few in the vast expanses of Europe that dedicates itself to indigenous art. During seasonal exhibitions, works of internationally renowned Aboriginal artists are displayed amid ornate, mesmerising décor.
The raft of international museums that have devoted themselves to the study, dissemination and preservation of Aboriginal art bears testament to the influence the art practices have yielded onto the international art arena.