2010 Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art

From the collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan

Exhibition: October 1-December 11, 2010
Reception: Thursday, September 30, 2010, 6 pm, lecture: 7 pm

Guest Lecture: Susan Kennedy Zeller, Brooklyn Museum Associate Curator 
Tuesday, Oct 5, 12 pm gallery walk through 
Tuesday, Oct. 5, 5 pm lecture, Fine Arts Auditorium

Contemporary Aboriginal art evolved in the 1960s and 70s. Australian Aboriginal art is now a major art movement, recognized around the world.

Today there are approximately 350,000 Aborigines from approximately 150 language groups. Creating art for the marketplace has become a significant source of income and an important means of maintaining Aboriginal culture.  There is evidence of artistic expression that dates back 50-60,000 years.

When Britain colonized Australia late in the 18th century, their culture was non-material, but they intertwined their ceremonial and spiritual life with aesthetic production. Although forms vary among Aboriginal communities, there are important commonalities: painting the body for ceremonies; scarification; and the use of symbols to represent key physical formations, events and stories.  In the tropical north of Australia, the tradition also involves painting on rock shelters used during the Wet, decorating low-land bark shelters used during the Dry, and producing memorial sculptures and earth works.  In the central desert, huge collaborative “sand paintings” were created for major ceremonies.

All the works in the exhibition reflect deep knowledge of and commitment to a rich spiritual heritage.  Even in what appear to be abstract art works, the paintings and sculptures tell stories, which are suffused with “the Dreaming” and connected to particular places for which the artist has rights and responsibilities. In the Dreaming, ancestral beings travel across the countryside to create the landscape and spread law. Dreaming is thus an ongoing exchange between the past and present.  Most Aboriginal paintings are maps; maps of the mind linking one important site to another.

The Levi-Kaplan Collection was developed over many years of travel and research to seek out the best work by Aboriginal artists to reveal the diversity and aesthetic power of one of the most exciting art movements in the world today.


Teacher Resources

About the Collectors


Learning Activities

Related Resources

Online Videos