The Last Great Art Movement-Aboriginal Art

Australian Aboriginal Art is truly an art form of immense significance. Robert Hughes is a famous art critic and has written for Time Magazine for many years, he depicts Aboriginal Art as the ‘last great art movement’.

What makes his statement so significant is due to Australian Aboriginal Art being amongst the oldest types of art in the world, and yet, commercially, it is one of the youngest.

Found in some of the remotest parts of Australia are examples of Ancient Rock Art that date back 30,000 to 40,000 years. Yet Aboriginal Art has only been readily available in a commercial capacity since the 1970’s.

This combination of tens of thousands of years of tradition coupled with Aboriginal Art’s freshness and emergence on the world wide art market has created something truly unique for it is almost certain that the world will never know an art movement with such immense history again, and it’s only just been discovered.

Whilst Aboriginal artists actually have been selling their unusual works since the 1930’s and possibly longer this has always been on a very small scale and was usually limited small sales to different people who happened to come in contact with Aboriginal people.

Most of the artworks dating back to these times were completed on bark. Canvas wasn’t introduced to the Aborigines until the early 70’s when Geoffrey Bardon, a school teacher and graduate of the National Art School, took on a teaching job at Papunya, an isolated Aboriginal settlement 250 km west of Alice Springs.

Bardon observed that the Aborigines would tell their stories by drawing pictures in the sand at the settlement. He encouraged not only the senior men at Papunya but also the children to record their patterns in paint on many different mediums from paper to school doors and soon after canvas.

Bardon worked closely with the Aboriginal painters who in the early 70’s became the founders of the Papunya Tula painting movement. Bardon committed many years after this promoting and documenting the Aboriginal art. He was active in setting up the Papunya art centre, and it is from here that the last great art movement was ready to emerge on the international art scene.

From Papunya, Aboriginal Art found its way to Central Australia, Kimberley in Western Australia and up to the north of Australia in Arnhem Land, as well as the Tiwi Islands. The movement has now spread to nearly all areas of Australia with Aboriginal communities and the people share their history and culture through art to anyone who is interested.

This has created enormous diversity in styles within Aboriginal Art as the customs, traditions, history and geographical nature of the different areas they live in is so distinct from each other.

Australian Aboriginal Art is now the leading art style within Australia and has become a significant force within the art industry worldwide with artworks hanging in many of the world’s leading auction houses, collections and galleries.

With slow and steady growth from its commercial beginnings in the early 70’s and through the 80’s, Aboriginal Art has exploded onto the international Art landscape in the last 10 years.

Its appeal continues to grow and there is no doubt this will continue as more art enthusiasts from around the world are exposed to this truly amazing art movement and it just may be the last great art movement ever discovered.