HOW ABORIGINES INVENTED THE IDEA OF CONTEMPORARY ART AND OTHER STORIES FROM THE ART WORLD

Professor Ian McLean

Wednesday 23 September 6pm
The University of Queensland Art Museum

  • Listen to or download MP3 'How Aborigines invented the idea of contemporary art and other stories from the art world' – Professor Ian McLean [52MB] here

When the Australian art world first noticed the Papunya Tula painting movement in the early 1980s, to many it seemed an historical aberration lacking any real legitimacy. Some critics worried that the paintings were 'meaningless decoration'. Another called them 'the Claytons of abstract art'. This is because the artists had seemingly arrived from the outside. They had not come through the ranks. To be accepted as contemporary art, Aboriginal artists had to first break into the art world and bend its paradigms to their own advantage. This talk charts some key moments in the journey that the art world made in its conceptual transformation of Aboriginal art from an anachronistic primitivism to treasured items of contemporary art.


Ian McLean is Professor in Art History at the University of Western Australia. He is the author of two books White Aborigines (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and The Art of Gordon Bennett (Craftsman House, 1996). His important edited documentary history collection How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art a documentary history 19802006 (Institute of Modern Art and Power Publications, Sydney, in press) will be published this year. He is on the Advisory Council of the postcolonial art journal Third Text.

Professor Ian McLean