Bringing Aboriginal Art to the Harvard Art Museums

January 14, 2014
Index Magazine

Bringing Aboriginal Art to the Harvard Art Museums

Yellow ochre cliffs at Bathurst Island. Photo: Narayan Khandekar.

Dodging crocodiles and digging yellow ochre from cliffs on Australia’s Arnhem Land coast—it’s just another day in the life of Narayan Khandekar, Senior Conservation Scientist in our Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. He recently journeyed to Australia with Director Tom Lentz, where they met with Stephen Gilchrist, the guest curator of a future Harvard Art Museums exhibition on contemporary Australian Aboriginal art, Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia.

The Straus Center’s analytical laboratory is in the midst of conducting the first major survey of traditional bark paintings by Aboriginal artists, which will add a scientific component to the exhibition. To carry out research for the survey and the exhibition, Khandekar, Lentz, and Gilchrist visited artist communities, met with major galleries and museums, and, of course, collected materials. Khandekar took hundreds of tiny pigment and binding media samples from finished paintings, as well as raw materials, always giving passing crocodiles the right of way.

Lead support for the exhibition has been provided by Harvard University’s Committee on Australian Studies.