LARGEST EXHIBITION OF FIRST NATIONS ART TO TRAVEL TO ASIA OPENS AT NATIONAL GALLERY, SINGAPORE
Works of art by over 150 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are now on display in Singapore as part of the Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia touring exhibition.
Making its first international stop at the National Gallery Singapore, Ever Present – the largest exhibition of its kind to travel to Asia – draws from the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art.
From Albert Namatjira and Emily Kame Kngwarreye to Tony Albert and Judy Watson, the exhibition features a diverse range of some of the country’s most influential artists.
Although Ever Present is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, it does not shy away from Australia’s complex histories. The 170+ works featured challenge stereotypes about First Nations people and what defines their art.
The works in Ever Present respond to Ancestral cultural knowledge, connections to Country, culture, ceremony and family, as well as addressing experiences relating to the impacts of invasion, colonisation, innovation, urbanisation and globalisation.
Curated by the National Gallery of Australia’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Tina Baum, Gulumirrgin (Larrakia)/Wardaman/Karajarri peoples, Ever Present illustrates how First Nations artists have maintained deep-time traditions and developed new social and political identities while adapting to constant change.
‘The artists contest populist views of Australian history, using art as a tool of resistance and replacing physical weaponry with wit, satire and juxtaposition to confront viewers and to encourage conversations that are essential to dispute outdated myths and ideologies’ said Baum.
The National Gallery of Australia is the custodian to the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world.
National Gallery of Australia’s Assistant Director, First Nations Engagement Bruce Johnson-McLean, Wierdi | Birri Gubba people, says ‘this touring exhibition allows us to share the collection – to tell the stories and share the cultures of our peoples with an international audience.’
‘To fully understand the richness, diversity and depth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture would take many generations and many lifetimes. But to appreciate it only takes a moment’ said Johnson-McLean.
For the Singapore audiences, Ever Present also highlights the colonial histories between Australia and Southeast Asia, with a selection of works displayed in the gallery’s Singapore-exclusive Southeast Asia Gallery Trail. This juxtaposition of artworks aims to prompt reflection on the relationship between the histories and art of the two neighboring regions.
Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, says, ‘Ever Present gives our audiences a rare opportunity to learn the stories of diverse peoples from the region and beyond. We are proud to work with National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers Arts to display some of their very best works to inspire our visitors to understand the rich history, culture, and artistic practices of First Peoples of Australia. Through this exhibition, visitors can reconsider their understanding of Southeast Asia through our historical ties with First Peoples of Australia and reflect on our shared colonial history, as timely discussions on decolonisation continue in the museum world and beyond.’
For over a decade, the National Gallery of Australia’s Indigenous Arts Partner — Wesfarmers Arts — has taken a leadership position by supporting the National Gallery to celebrate and share Australia’s First People’s culture.
Nick Mitzevich, Director, National Gallery of Australia, says he is proud to continue this long partnership with Wesfarmers to bring Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia to Singapore.
‘We are excited to be taking our partnership with Wesfarmers to a new level by presenting this exhibition, and we are deeply grateful to Wesfarmers Chairman Michael Chaney and Managing Director, Rob Scott for their personal commitment to supporting and elevating Indigenous culture and leadership’ said Mitzevich.
Wesfarmers is committed to supporting a richer understanding across the community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and aspirations.
“Ever Present includes some of the most important contemporary and historical art produced in Australia, celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their central role in defining Australia and our national identity,” Chaney said. “We were thrilled with the exhibition’s very successful presentation at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and are excited to be able to share the show with an international audience in Singapore, for much of the remainder of 2022.”
Since 1988, National Gallery of Australia Touring Exhibitions have reached almost 12 million people, with audiences around the country and overseas experiencing over 10,000 works from the collection at more than 1600 venues.
Ever Present: First Peoples Art of Australia is presented by National Gallery Singapore in partnership with National Gallery of Australia and Wesfarmers Arts.