Inventing Australian Aboriginal art: from anti-art to fine art
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When the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) opened in October 1982, there was no provision for the display of Australian Aboriginal art (or indigenous art of Australia; henceforth Aboriginal art). While the NGA collected Aboriginal art, this was not high on its exhibition agenda. A few years earlier, the inaugural Director of the NGA, James Mollison, had explained why: 'Aboriginal art is now collected on a national basis by the Institute of Aboriginal Studies', and 'we would hope to borrow from the Institute when necessary, to represent this aspect of our [national] art'. No one had foreseen that within a few years Aboriginal art would be the subject of intense artworld interest as contemporary art, or that the NGA would embark on an ambitious new acquisition and exhibition programme. While there were plenty of galleries for exhibiting contemporary art in the NGA- it was known for its collection and display of contemporary art -Aboriginal art never seemed to have a satisfactory home there. Not until October 2010, with the opening of a purpose-built new wing for Aboriginal art that also doubled as the new much grander entrance to the NGA- did the matter finally seem resolved.