the Western Desert art movement


SINCE the first triumphs of the Western Desert art movement, which had its origins in remote Papunya 40 years ago this month, a shining dream has haunted the Australian indigenous art market: the dream of international acceptance and global cultural prestige. Those first, mysterious boards with their elusive symbols painted by the desert men; the grand topographic panels of the mid-1980s; the wild, jagged colour fields poured out in the far western sand-dune communities in recent years: how is it they charm Australian audiences so easily and dominate private collections and state galleries in this country, yet fail to win such concerted admiration in the wider world? Aboriginal art promoters and enthusiasts, Australian and foreign, have tried repeatedly in the past two decades to overcome the indifference of the fickle, shifting contemporary culture establishment and stage breakthrough shows that would put the indigenous tradition on the map: regularly, a landmark exhibition is held, word spreads, then ebbs away, and all the optimism dies.

more from Nicolas Rothwell at The Australian here.