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Defying Empire at the NGA

HerCanberra Team

Indigenous art is taking a stand at the National Gallery of Australia.

Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum—which granted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the right to be counted in the Census and, therefore, counted as Australians, the exhibition Defying Empire: 3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial  begins on Friday.

The exhibition presents works by 30 established, mid-career and emerging contemporary Indigenous artists from across the country: Tony Albert, Brook Andrew, Sebastian Arrow, Daniel Boyd, Maree Clarke, Megan Cope, Brenda L. Croft, Karla Dickens, Blak Douglas, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Lola Greeno, Dale Harding, Sandra Hill, Jonathan Jones, Ray Ken, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Nonggirrnga Marawili, Archie Moore, Laurie Nona, Rusty Peters, Reko Rennie, Brian Robinson, Yhonnie Scarce, Ken Thaiday Sr, Judy Watson, Vicki West, Jason Wing, Pedro Wonaeamirri, and Raymond Zada.


Reko Rennie Royal Flag 2013

“This exhibition challenges us and helps us all to understand the issues and stories presented by the artists, remembering the past and looking to the future,” said Gerard Vaughan, NGA Director.

“This is a remarkable opportunity for all Australians to see the work of these brilliant contemporary artists.”

Traversing various themes within the overarching context of defiance—from first contact, through to the 1967 Referendum, and ongoing activism today—Defying Empire does not shy away from Australia’s complex past.


Sandra Hill Double Standards 2015 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

“From stolen generations, to nuclear testing; the Referendum to cultural appropriation; racism to family; traditional practice to contemporary firsts, Defying Empire proves art and activism have always gone hand in hand,” said Tina Baum, NGA’s Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and curator of this exhibition. ‘

“Defying Empire challenges stereotypes to use art as visual tools of resistance to open conversations about Australia’s shared history, defying convention to insert the Indigenous presence back into the national landscape.”

The third triennial features at least three works from each artist, making it NGA’s biggest survey of Australian Indigenous practice. Works include painting on canvas and bark, weaving and sculpture, video, prints, photography, metalwork, glasswork and more.


Julie Gough Hunting ground (Pastoral) Van Diemen’s Land 2016

This exhibition is made possible by the continued support of the NGA’s Indigenous Art Partner Wesfarmers Arts. This partnership spans the Wesfarmers Arts Indigenous Fellowships—a major annual event at the NGA—the Gallery’s full range of Indigenous art programming, as well as this flagship exhibition as the presenting partner.

‘This exhibition gives all Australians an opportunity to see the exceptional work of Indigenous artists and to learn more about the important stories they have to tell,’ said Helen Carroll, Wesfarmers Arts Manager.

Defying Empire follows on from the success of the previous triennials: Culture Warriors and unDisclosed.

the essential
What: Defying Empire:  3rd National Indigenous Art Triennial
When: Friday 26 May to September 10
Where: National Gallery of Australia, Parkes
Cost: Free

Slider image is Brenda L. Croft’s shut/mouth/scream 2016,  while feature image is Archie Moore’s Aboriginal Anarchy 2012


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