Aboriginal art on canvas and board only began 50 years ago: Traditionally, the paintings we now see on canvas, were scratched or drawn on rock walls, used in body paint or on ceremonial articles and importantly, drawn in sand or dirt accompanied by the song or story. In 1971, Geoffrey Bardon a school teacher working with Aboriginal children in Papunya, noticed the Aboriginal men, while telling stories to others, were drawing symbols in the sand. He encouraged them to put these stories down on board and canvas, and there began the Aboriginal art movement. Since then, Australian Aboriginal Art has been tagged the most exciting contemporary art form of the 20th Century.
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Aboriginal artworks belong in both galleries and museums. Indigenous Australian culture is the longest surviving culture the world has seen; it is complex and centred on long term survival in a hostile environment. It is rich in spiritual teachings, knowledge, and cultural behaviour, as well as the practical skills and knowledge required to survive. Therefore, Aboriginal Art has both artistic and anthropological merit. Works painted even in recent times can qualify equally for a place in a modern art gallery or a museum. This is one of the reasons it is so special and important.
In 2007 iconic Aboriginal artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri sold his painting Warlugulong to the National Gallery of Australia for an astounding $2.4 million. Only two months prior, Emily Kame Kngwarreye had sold her work ‘Earth’s Creation’ to a private buyer for $1.56 million, a record for any Australian female artist.
Most art from Central & Western desert is an aerial depiction of the land. The artists usually paint on the floor and work around the canvas, and usually take no offence which way their art is displayed. However you like, portrait or landscape, is up to your personal taste. This makes Aboriginal art very versatile.