World of Dreamings
Traditional and modern art of Australia
An exhibition held at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg | 2 February - 9 April 2000
- Dr Brian Kennedy, Director, National Gallery of Australia
- An introduction to Aboriginal art by Susan Jenkins and Carly Lane
- The Aboriginal Memorial We have survived, by Djon Mundine
- The Aboriginal Memorial 1987-88 A description
- John Mawurndjul The resonating land by Luke Taylor
- All the world The paintings of Nym Bandak by Kim Barber
- 'Who's that bugger who paints like me?' Rover Thomas by Wally Caruana
- The enigma of Emily Kngwarray by Jenny Green
- High art and religious intensity. A brief history of Wik sculpture by Peter Sutton
- Laced flour and tin boxes The art of Fiona Foley by Avril Quaill
- The memory theatre of Tracey Moffat by Gael Newton
The National Gallery of Australia is proud to present the exhibition Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art in Modern Worlds at the State Hermitage Museum. The exhibition accords with the stated aim of the National Gallery to present the highest achievements of Australian artists on the world stage.
During the 1980s, Australia was privileged to receive from the State Hermitage Museum the loan of an exhibition of old master paintings. We are now honoured to return that generous gesture with the most significant exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art ever to travel abroad. That the exhibition should be shown in one of the world's great repositories of art is a singular privilege, and recognition of the extraordinary and rapid appreciation of the quality and range of the indigenous art of Australia.
We wish to particularly acknowledge the foresight and aesthetic sensibility of Professor Mikhail Piotrovski. After a visit to Australia, he gathered a sincere appreciation of Aboriginal art, and demonstrated to us his conviction that in the indigenous art making of Australia lies one of the world's great contemporary art movements.
The focus of this major exhibition is the continuing relevance of Australian Aboriginal art traditions in the contemporary world. The exhibition includes the magnificent The Aboriginal Memorial. In the decade it has been on public display, The Aboriginal Memorial has become one of the iconic images of the National Gallery's collection, attracting enormous interest and vigorous debate, not only from Australians, but from the thousands of overseas visitors to the Gallery. This is the first time the Memorial has left the country. For all Australians, this is a momentous occasion.
The Memorial has universal significance. This forest of symbols embodies a range of values and aspirations regarding the human condition, kinship, history and the natural and spiritual environments that may well be a guide to sustain all civilisations as we enter the third millennium.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to Jimmy Wululu, Djardie Ashley Wodalpa and the other artists who created the Memorial, and the community of Ramingining in Arnhem Land, with whom the National Gallery has enjoyed a long working relationship, in joining us in this venture. We also dedicate this exhibition to the memory of Paddy Dhathangu, David Daymirringu and George Malibirr, three of the main protagonists in the development of the Memorial. Theirs has been a vision that transcends time, culture and place, proof if any were needed, of the vitality of ancient and continuing traditions in the contemporary world.
The collections of the National Gallery are truly international in scope, bringing together the finest examples of art in the Western tradition, both past and present, art from Africa and the ancient Americas, from mainland and insular Asia and from Oceania. Naturally, the collections of Australian art take pride of place among the Gallery's displays, in particular the collections of Aboriginal art which represent not only the longest continuing tradition of art known to humanity, but also a tradition which is unique to Australia.
For some 50 millennia the many and varied Aboriginal societies have used art as a medium of exchange and communication: objects have been traded over thousands of kilometres, back and forth across the continent, to promote understanding and social and cultural alliances between disparate peoples. It is with this sense of power of art to communicate across cultures that Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art in Modern Worlds is brought to a European audience.
We pay tribute to the many partners, sponsors and supporters of this exhibition, and in particular to Art Exhibitions Australia, its Chairman, Mr Michael Darling and Chief Executive, Dr Robert Edwards AO and also the National Museum of Australia, its Chairman, the Hon. Tony Staley and Director Ms Dawn Casey. We also thank the Australian Ambassador to Russia, Her Excellency Ms Ruth Pearce, and the Russian Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Rashit Khamidulin, for their assistance.
The preparation of the exhibition has been a major logistical endeavour. The transport and packing of The Aboriginal Memorial, 200 painted hollow log coffins, is a unique exercise by any standard, never mind the entire exhibition of paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and films which accompany it. It has been a significant decision for the National Gallery of Australia to deprive its own audience of what is generally regarded as one of the most magnificent Australian Aboriginal contemporary works of art.
It is with great pleasure that the people of Australia send the Memorial and the exhibition to the State Hermitage Museum where we know they will be appreciated.
Dr Brian Kennedy
Director, National Gallery of Australia