29 Art Centres converge at Desert Mob 2015 - Art Collector

Tiger Yaltangki, Mamutjara (Ghost Story), 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 167 x 240cm. Courtesy: Tiger Yaltangki and Iwantja Arts, South Australia

By Helen McKenzie

Tim Rollason, director of Araluen Cultural Precinct, says with a smile that putting together the 25th Desert Mob arts event is “easy, if you have the right people on the job”. He could not have looked happier on Thursday night as the crowds bustled around the colourful art works amassed from art centres around the Northern Territory and the remote communities of South and Western Australia.

Desert Mob 2015 showcases up to nine works from each of the 29 art centres represented and the variety on view is astounding. From the Tjanpi Desert Weavers works made from raffia and emu feathers, to the distinctive work of the Hermannsburg Potters; from a traditional dot painting by Papanya Tula artist, Willy Tjungaurrayi, to the contemporary digital print photography by young Mimili Maku artist Josina Nyarpingku Pumani. Barbara Moore from Tjala Arts also took a contemporary stance with her large and dramatic work My Country, but probably the most talked about, knockout work of the night was Malpa Wiru (Good Friends) by Tiger Yaltangki, Iwantja Arts.

On Thursday night Yaltangki posed shyly for photographers with his large painting, his leather Akubra hat worn so low it almost masked his eyes. Yaltangki’s take on modern indigenous life (guitars, science fiction and cars boldly featured in his works) clearly struck a note with collectors, with local galleries in Alice Springs selling out of works they had on hand over the next few days.

Cecilia Alfonso who has been Art Centre manager at Warlukurlangu (Yuendumu) for over 14 years says they use Desert Mob “ to sell our most beautiful art, to show a good cross section of their artists’ work and particularly to give an opportunity for emerging artists to show their work”. Warlukurlangu is one of the largest arts centres with over 480 working artists. On Sunday the centre opened a Men’s Museum that houses murals that Alfonso describes as “breathtaking and beautifully preserved”.

Desert Mob is not just an exhibition that lasts for 6 weeks, but also a symposium, a dance project and probably most fun of all, a mad market day. At 10am on Saturday each of the represented art centres opened stalls to sell works for no more than $500. Conjure up visions of the big city Boxing Day sales and you will have an idea of the excitement this morning offers collectors, tourists, arts workers and locals from Alice Springs.

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