European art lovers flock to Indigenous creations

View from the mezzanine floor of the Australia: Defending the Ocean installation at the Paris Aquarium. Photo: Roberto d'Alessandro, 2017.

Europe has a great thirst for Indigenous Australian art, according to the curator of two major exhibitions on display in Paris and Geneva.

The exhibitions at the Paris Aquarium and the award-winning Ethnographic Museum of Geneva are being touted as a big step in promoting Indigenous sculpture to world markets.

Twelve other venues around the world have invited the exhibitions — which feature sculptures and ghost nets (nets left behind in the ocean by fishermen) — to be showcased over the next two years.

The exhibitions follow on from the success of a major display at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco last year called ‘Australia: Defending the Oceans at the Heart of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art’.

Project curator Stéphane Jacob said: “The success of the project and the opportunities ahead are a testament to not only the artists and dedication of the project team, but also to the fact that Europe in particular still has a great thirst for Australian Indigenous art.

“Ghost nets are a new medium for Europe and the work coming from Indigenous communities in Tropical North Queensland and Ceduna in South Australia really are spectacular in size and detail.”

The Paris Aquarium exhibition is part of the ‘Coral: Heart of Life’ exhibition and showcases endangered coral and promotes the need for greater protection of reefs, features existing & newly commissioned ghost net works by Pormpuraaw Art & Culture Centre artists.

The exhibition at the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva is featured as part of the broader ‘The Boomerang Effect’ exhibition, which features important traditional artefacts from the museum’s collection, installations by contemporary Indigenous artist Brook Andrew, contemporary ghost net sculptures by Ceduna Art Centre and Erub Island Art Centre artists, as well as a large bronze, dugong sculpture by leading Torres Strait Islander artist Alick Tipoti.

“All these works are of great artistic value but they have a strong cultural and environmental message too,” said Brisbane-based art dealer, Suzanne O’Connell, the project’s associate curator and coordinator.

“All the artworks part of the project speak of the destruction of ocean life through pollution and climate change and seek to educate audiences on the frontline efforts of the traditional owners of Australia (who are the artists), which help curb such threats to their way of life, food sources and spiritual totems.”

The exhibition at the Paris Aquarium runs until August 15. The Ethnographic Museum of Geneva’s show can be viewed until January 8.

By Wendy Caccetta

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