National Gallery clears APY art of ‘interference’

An independent review of Aboriginal art to be included in a National Gallery of Australia exhibition has cleared the paintings of allegations of non-Indigenous interference.

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

The 28 paintings were to have formed the gallery’s major winter show Ngura Pulka – Epic Country.

But an article published in The Australian newspaper in April alleged the paintings by Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) artists had been interfered with by non-Indigenous art workers.

The allegations shook the Aboriginal art industry and the exhibition was postponed indefinitely while several reviews were undertaken.

The gallery’s independent panel has now ruled the artists exercised effective creative control over their work and the paintings comply with the National Gallery’s provenance policy.

The findings state the word of the artist is of “utmost importance” in determining attribution, and each artist involved said the work was their own without hesitation.

“Without exception, the artists to whom we spoke, unequivocally told us that the works under review in each case were made by them and expressly denied that there had been any improper interference in the making of their work,” the review stated.

In its interim report due in June, which was not made public, the panel found “most of the paintings have not been subject to any credible direct evidence impugning their provenance”.

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However it needed more time to resolve conflicting evidence about the provenance of a small number of artworks.

The review noted it was outside its scope to look at the operations of the APY Art Centre Collective, the subject of the interference allegations.

The National Gallery says it will work closely with the artists and monitor a South Australian government review into the APY Art Centre Collective.


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