Tactility: two centuries of Indigenous objects, textiles and fibre is the first major curatorial project at the National Gallery of Australia for the energetic and gifted Brenda L Croft, Senior Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, since she commenced here in early 2002. It has also provided training and skills development for Stephen Gilchrist, Indigenous Trainee Assistant Curator. Susan Jenkins, Assistant Curator, completes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art team on this exhibition and has brought to it her very considerable knowledge of the Indigenous collection.The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander component of the national collection comprises over 4000 two- and three dimensional works of art, , along with over 1000 works on paper by Indigenous artists from throughout Australia. As with any major public collection the majority of these works remain out of sight of general view due to their fragility and sensitivity to light, or the limitations of available display space.
Many of the 100 or more works of art represented in Tactility: two centuries of Indigenous objects, textiles and fibre have rarely been on display, with some never before seen by the general public. Research and development for this project provided the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art department with a wonderful opportunity to review a substantial aspect of the Indigenous collection, before making a final selection of works for the exhibition. It also provided the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon the history of a key element of the national collection — the development of collection practices regarding Indigenous art.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art department has worked closely with Gallery staff from Conservation, Exhibitions, Multi-media, Photographic Services, Publications and Registration, along with a number of interns and volunteers in a truly collaborative, across-team project.
Tactility: two centuries of Indigenous objects, textiles and fibre provides a splendid occasion for the National Gallery of Australia to present exquisite works of art — previously often relegated to ethnographic and craft definitions and considered the ‘lesser’ cousins of other Indigenous works in the collection — to a now more appreciative audience.
There is an exciting range of works in the exhibition — from the significant, extremely rare 19th-century Murray Island/Mer stone shark; incised pearl-shell ornaments from West Kimberley; delicate traditional shell necklaces, containers and weavings from Tasmania; sensual fabric lengths from central Australian Aboriginal communities and vibrant textiles from New South Wales, Queensland and Torres Strait Islander artists; exquisite woven objects from Arnhem Land; transitional early 20th-century works from south-eastern Australia; innovative Torres Strait Islander dance-masks and head-dresses; intricately carved and painted shields; to contemporary, politically charged works by artists solidly based in the 21st century. We hope that you will enjoy the prospect of seeing these works of art presented in such a diverse and inspirational light.
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