Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia

, Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Tommy Watson, Wipu Rockhole, 2004. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. © Tommy Watson/Courtesy of Yanda Aboriginal Art.

Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia surveys contemporary Indigenous art from Australia, exploring the ways in which time is embedded within Indigenous artistic, social, historical, and philosophical life. For Indigenous people, the past is understood to be part of a cyclical and circular order known as the “everywhen”; conceptions of time rely on active encounters with both the ancestral and natural worlds. While the exhibition focuses on the last 40 years of Indigenous art, it also includes historical objects from the rich collections of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology to underscore both the continuity of cultural practice and remarkable adaptive innovations.

The exhibition showcases more than 70 works drawn from public and private collections in Australia and the United States, and features many works that have never been seen outside Australia. Works by some of the most significant contemporary Indigenous artists will be on view, including Rover Thomas and Emily Kam Kngwarray (both former representatives at the Venice Biennale); Judy Watson, recipient of the 2006 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award; Doreen Reid Nakamarra, who participated in dOCUMENTA (13); Vernon Ah Kee, who has also exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and most recently, the Istanbul Biennial; and the visual and performance artist Christian Thompson, who was recently mentored by Marina Abramović in Australia.

An exhibition of this scope has not been seen in the United States for more than 25 years, and it reflects the ways in which the art historical landscape has shifted since then. Indigenous art is no longer positioned as “other,” but as another form of contemporary art that demands our critical attention. This exhibition presents an opportunity to introduce audiences to the central role that Indigenous art plays in the global narrative of contemporary art.

The analytical laboratory of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard Art Museums, a world leader in conservation and conservation science, is also carrying out the first-ever large-scale technical examination of traditional Indigenous bark paintings as part of the exhibition. Understanding the materials used by the artists will provide enormous insights into the long-standing practices and traditions of Indigenous painting.

The exhibition catalogue, published by the Harvard Art Museums and distributed by Yale University Press, includes images of the works on display and six essays by distinguished scholars. The publication delves more deeply into the concepts proposed in the exhibition, offering a lasting look at Indigenous Australian art and paying homage to the particular traditions of specific regions of Australia. More at shop.harvardartmuseums.org.

Guest curated for the Harvard Art Museums by Indigenous Australian Stephen Gilchrist, of the Yamatji people of the Inggarda language group of Western Australia. Gilchrist is the Australian Studies Visiting Curator at the Harvard Art Museums and associate lecturer in art history at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Lead support for Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia and related research has been provided by the Harvard Committee on Australian Studies. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Consulate-General, New York. Additional support for the exhibition, catalogue, and related research has been provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation, John and Barbara Wilkerson, the American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia, Debra and Dennis Scholl, the William E. Teel African and Oceanic Arts Endowment, the Dimitri Hadzi Memorial Fund for Modern Art, and the Harvard Art Museums Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

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