Toledo Museum of Art Presents Visually Dazzling, Diverse Exhibition of Aboriginal Australian Art

  • TOLEDO, Ohio
  • /
  • April 15, 2013

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Shorty Jangala Robertson (Warlpiri, born c.1935, Yuendumu, Western Desert, Northern Territory), Ngapa Jukurrpa – Puyurru (Water Dreaming at Puyurru), 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 183 x 122 cm. Promised Gift of Will Owen and Harvey Wagner; EL.2011.60.45. © 2013 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/VISCOPY, Australia

TOLEDO, OHIO—The first major exhibition of Aboriginal Australian art in the U.S. Midwest in more than a quarter century will be on view at the Toledo Museum of Art April 12–July 14, 2013.

Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art from the Hood Museum of Art includes 120 works of contemporary Indigenous art from Australia spanning five decades by artists from urban and rural communities. Most of the works, however, were created after 2000 and broaden the definition of Aboriginal art, reinforcing the idea that Indigenous art and contemporary art are not contradictory terms.

“This extraordinarily captivating and visually dazzling exhibition continues the Toledo Museum of Art’s historical legacy of bringing important and often unfamiliar art and culture to its audiences,” said Museum Director Brian Kennedy. “In this era of increasing globalization, innovation and intercultural exchange, it is critical that museums stretch and challenge their artistic comfort zones.”

Kennedy, who wrote an essay for the exhibition catalog, became acquainted with Indigenous Australian artists while serving as director of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (1997–2004). He later met art collectors Will Owen and Harvey Wagner when he hosted an Aboriginal art exhibition in 2006 while director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Owen and Wagner, who first became interested in Indigenous Australian art in 1988, donated 400 works from their collection to the Hood Museum of Art in 2009 and 2011. In addition to being a collector, Owen writes a weekly blog on Aboriginal art and culture.

Among artists represented in the exhibition are Michael Riley, Shorty Jangala Robertson, Danny Gibson Tjapaltjarri, Destiny Deacon and Walangkura Napanangka.

Curated by Stephen Gilchrist, curator of Indigenous Australian art at the Hood Museum of Art, and coordinated in Toledo by Brian Kennedy, the exhibition encompasses the broad range of media and materials employed by contemporary Aboriginal artists, from acrylic painting on canvas to earthen ochre painting on bark, as well as sculpture and photography. It was not until the early 1970s that many Indigenous Australians began to record their ancestral stories with permanent materials.

“The diversity of artistic perspectives assembled in Crossing Cultures speaks to the richness of the contemporary Aboriginal art tradition, which has been called ‘the last great art movement of the 20th century,’” said Gilchrist. “The objects included in this exhibition reference and reinvigorate traditional iconographies, speak to the history and legacy of colonization, and meaningfully contribute to the growing international discourse on contemporary Indigenous art.”

Michael Riley (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, 1960-2004, Sydney, New South Wales), Untitled (from the series Cloud), 2004. Inkjet print on Ilford Galerie paper, ed. 2/5, 150 x 112 cm. Promised Gift of Will Owen and Harvey Wagner; EL.2011.60.59. © 2013 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/VISCOPY, Australia

The focus is on young artists who are breathing new life into ancient stories and broadening the possibilities of Indigenous Australian art and, consequently, visitors will see contemporary paintings that summon aspects of “the Dreaming” as well as photographs from urban-based artists who depict the contemporary realities of Indigenous Australians.

For Indigenous Australian peoples the Dreaming refers to ancestral stories about the creation of the universe, the spiritual beings who journeyed across and named the land and the social and religious laws they passed down.

On the day before the exhibition opens, Kennedy, Gilchrist and Owen will be part of a public panel discussion of the works in Crossing Cultures.

The Hood Museum of Art organized this traveling exhibition with the generous support of Kate and Yaz Krehbiel, Class of 1991, Thayer 1992, and Hugh J. Freund, Class of 1967. The exhibition is on view there through March 10, 2013.

The Toledo presentation of Crossing Cultures is made possible by members of the Toledo Museum of Art and with the support of the Ohio Arts Council through a sustainability grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Admission to the exhibition and to the Museum is free. The companion catalog is available for purchase through the Museum Store and online at

The Toledo Museum of Art is a nonprofit arts institution funded through individual donations, foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, and investments.  The Ohio Arts Council helps fund programs at the Toledo Museum of Art through a sustainability grant program that encourages economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. Glass Pavilion® and Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion® are registered service marks.

Admission to the Museum is free.  The Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.;  Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, Noon to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays and major holidays. Friday evening hours are made possible by Fifth Third Bank.

The Museum is located at 2445 Monroe Street at Scottwood Avenue, just west of the downtown business district and one block off I-75 with exit designations posted.  For general information, visitors can call 419-255-8000 or 800-644-6862, or visit

Teri Sharp
Toledo Museum of Art

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