Defining Moments: Aratjara: Art of the First Australians & fluent with Dr Stephen Gilchrist

In this lecture, Dr Stephen Gilchrist discusses Aratjara: Art of the First Australians 1993 at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, and fluent: Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson presented at the Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale in 1997. Part of ACCA’s lecture series Defining Moments: Australian Exhibition Histories 1968–1999.

For almost a decade, working on opposite sides of the world, Aboriginal activists Gary Foley and Charles (Chicka) Dixon and Aboriginal artist Lin Onus worked with Swiss-born artist and curator Bernhard Lüthi on the development of the first major, Indigenous led exhibition to tour internationally. Aratjara: Art of the First Australians travelled to the Kunstsammlung in Düsseldorf, the Hayward Gallery in London, and the Louisiana Museum in Denmark over 1993-94. The exhibition included over 150 works of art by more than 100 artists and drawn from some of the most significant art producing communities in the country. Three years later, Australia’s official contribution to the 1997 Venice Biennale took the form of fluent, an exhibition of works by three leading contemporary Aboriginal artists. Curated by Brenda L Croft, Hetti Perkins and exhibition manager Victoria Lynn, fluent included major works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Judy Watson, and woven sculptures by Yvonne Koolmatrie. The exhibition subsequently toured to six major Australian venues, including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, in 1998. In this lecture, Stephen Gilchrist will consider these two major exhibitions as key examples of Indigenous curation that encode Indigenous philosophies of critical care and value.

Dr Stephen Gilchrist belongs to the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of northwest Western Australia, and is Lecturer of Indigenous Art at the University of Sydney. He is a writer and curator who has worked with the Indigenous Australian collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2003–05); the British Museum, London (2008); the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2005–10); and the Hood Museum of ArtDartmouth College (2011–13). He was also the Australian Studies Visiting Curator at the Harvard Art MuseumsHarvard University (2012–16). Gilchrist has curated numerous exhibitions in Australia and the United States and has written extensively on Indigenous Art from Australia.

This two-year series is presented in association with Abercrombie & Kent and Research Partner, Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) at The University of Melbourne and supported by Art Guide Australia, The Saturday Paper, Triple R, The Melbourne Gin Company, Capi and the City of Melbourne.

Video produced by Gatherer Media.