24 April, 2006

origins of aboriginal art

Forget everything you ever learned about the origins of the contemporary aboriginal art movement. The mystery is now solved, the histories re-written - it was invented by a dutchman.

I quote.

"Not until the early 1970's did the Aboriginals begin making pictures that were not bound to the site or the body on which they were created. The occasion was the journey of the Dutchman Hank Ebes and two Australian gallery owners into the bush where they encouraged the Aboriginals to paint their traditional subjects on canvases with ochre and acrylic paints. This paved a way for a popularisation of Aboriginal art and culture which had been surpressed since the British colonisation of the Australian continent in 1788."

Interesting critique of the British. I wonder who the nameless "Australian gallery owners" were? How kind of Mr Ebes to show them what to do.



Mr Ebes also had to teach Emily Kame Kngwarreye how to make her art. Note; she is "Emily" whilst he is "Hank Ebes, the collector".

"Emily has created DREAMTIME's most monumental work, my country ... Originally the work was not planned as a composite installation. However when over several weeks Hank Ebes found Emily painting new pictures, which she all designated "My Country, My Country, My Country," the collector conceived the idea of assembling the 53 panels into one large work."

About Ebes.

"The Dutch-Australian pioneer Hank Ebes was one of the first people to encourage the Aboriginals to paint on canvas. Until the 1970s they had created their images on evanescent materials: on dirt and sand, and often those images were washed away."

Wonder who the nameless artists he is sitting with are? And which international museums they have exhibited in?

"Hank Ebes has made a name for himself as one of the world's greatest and most passionate connoisseurs of Aboriginal art. ... While tending the gallery he has amassed a private collection totalling more than 11,000 works of art."

Wonder if the amount paid to the artists reflected the true market value of their work? And what the current valuation of "11,000 works of art" is?

They were selling unstreched canvases less than a metre square for an average of 400 Euro each here at the Utrecht Aboriginal Art Museum yesterday. Larger canvases were up to 2000 euro. (taking the most conservative estimate, 400 x 11,000 is 4.4 million Euro or $7.3 million AUD: at 2000 euro each, we are talking $37 million AUD). What proportion of the guess-timated $7 to $37 million has been returned to the Aboriginal art communities these works came from?
"First they say that you are an idiot. Then they say that you have been lucky. And when you die they will probably say that you were a genius" Hank Ebes

You using the 'infinite improbability drive' Hank? News for you mate - you have yet to progress past stage one. Only "idiot" is probably not the word.

source: Arken Museum of Modern Art Presentation Sheet for the Dreamtime Exhibition.

"In the exhibition DREAMTIME, ARKEN presents more than 100 Aboriginal paintings from Ebe's private collection."

Only three of the artists are named.

"DREAMTIME offers an opportunity to experience contemporary art from a remote corner of the world, by the indigenous Australians. This is art that the Western art institutions traditionally have failed to do justice. The exhibition also illustrates a trend which has been on the rise for the past decades: the extension of the West's artistic map of the world."

Nice to know that we (the Australian art community) are a complete failure with respect to Aboriginal art isn't it? And reassuring to know that all will be ok now that Europe has discovered us.

Unfortunately this presentation is typical of the type of mis-information that exists in Europe about Australia and Australian art and culture. They either haven't got a clue, or they invented it.

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