One of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary Aboriginal artists, Destiny Deacon, will be celebrated in an exhibition shown at the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) re-opening.

DESTINY is Deacon’s first solo show in 15 years and brings together over 100 works made throughout the artist’s 30-year career as well as recent works created with artists and long-time collaborator, Virginia Fraser.

The exhibition also sees work from late Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi photographer Michael Riley and West Australian performance artist Erin Hefferon.

A descendant of the Kuku and Erub/Mer people from Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait, Deacon was born in Maryborough, Queensland but is now based in Melbourne, Victoria.

She has attracted recognition across the globe for her body of work, which pulls together humour and tragedy to create reflective and powerful contemporary art. Deacon’s portfolio features photography, video, sculpture and installation.

Me and Virginia’s doll (Me and Carol) 1997
lightjet print from Polaroid
100.0 x 80.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Destiny Deacon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.

NGV’s Curator of Indigenous Art, Myles Russell-Cook has been working on this exhibition for three years. He said whilst the gallery has been doing incredible work to adapt to online through COVID-19, there’s nothing quite like experiencing Deacon’s work in person.

“We’re not a library, we are an art gallery, so having an encounter in front of the work is so key. With an artist like Destiny, who at the core of a lot of her work resists explanation and interpretation and ‘art speak’ it is just so important to have that opportunity to be there and to stand in front of the work and let it speak to you,” he said.

“We have a number of major installations in the show that just can’t be communicated digitally and we are doing amazing things online, but … you just can’t grasp the experience of being there.”

Russell-Cook said although DESTINY pulls work from three decades, a lot of what the art speaks to resonates today.

“So many of her works are speaking to me and to everyone in a different way to what she expected,” he said.

“I am thinking of this image from Arrears Windows … which features this yellow milk crate hub stuffed full with black and brown dolls. Where I’m sitting in my kitchen, I can see the flats in Kensington and Flemington which were the topic of news headlines for weeks.”

Arrears windows 2009
inkjet print from digital image on
archival paper
60.0 x 80.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Destiny Deacon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Although based in Melbourne, this will be Deacon’s first show in the city.

“She is a hugely international artist, and I think this is a great way to introduce her to Melbourne which has kind of hasn’t given her a look in … I’m hoping this will be the time people realise fully how brilliant her body of work is,” Russell-Cook said.

NGV Director Tony Ellwood AM spoke of the pride the gallery has in being able to exhibit DESTINY.

“Destiny Deacon has never shied away from confronting our country’s difficult history and her work continues to make a vital contribution to Australian cultural discourse,” he said.

DESTINY will be on display at NGV Australia from late August until January 2021.

Admission to the exhibition is free.

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By Rachael Knowles