Collecting aboriginal art in the Australian nation: Two case studies

Fred R. Myers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    How Aboriginal acrylic painting came to be refrained as "high art" is an interesting ethnohistorical question. Scholars have traced the increasing frequency of the exhibition of Aboriginal Australian acrylic painting and the increasing emphasis on the framework of fine art and contemporary fine art in these exhibitions. Individual artists come prominently into attention, both in the press and also - eventually - with one-person exhibitions. In this article I delineate the collecting practices and ideologies that lie at the foundation of two of the important early collections of acrylic painting in Australia - that of Tim and Vivien Johnson (which was gifted eventually to the Art Gallery of New South Wales) and that of Dame Margaret Carnegie (some of which was gifted to the Art Gallery of Victoria). My aim is to explore the differences in their understanding of the art and its importance as part of a more concrete analysis of the forms of cultural convergence between Aboriginal culture and particular formations in the larger social world in which it came to circulate. These processes involve Australia s distinction as a nation as well as its postcolonial emergence from British domination toward varying forms of nationalist cosmopolitanism.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)116-137
    Number of pages22
    JournalVisual Anthropology Review
    Issue number1-2
    StatePublished - 2005


    • Aboriginal art
    • Circulation
    • Collectors
    • National culture

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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