50 of Australia's Most Collectable Artists: Tony Albert - Art Collector

Issue 51, January - March 2010

This profile appeared in the "50 of Australia's Most Collectable Artists 2010" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2010"

“No use cryin cos dat feller BARTON Says this mus Be a WHITE AUSTRALIA.” The text is laid over a plaintive Aboriginal face in Tony Albert’s Velvet Soap. Subtle it was not. Despite the dark humour at play this was an angry work and indeed a kind of indignant fury ran throughout the works in Tony Albert’s 2009 show ASH on me at the Jan Manton Gallery in Brisbane.

Growing up in Queensland, a part of the country that suffers some of the worst racial history of Australia, Albert no doubt has cause for bitterness. Another work depicting an Indigenous man with the words “can you see what I see” was rendered in acrylic on a mirror with the inevitable effect that the viewer, presumably white, would see themselves. It was a smart optical trick and one that intentionally created unease.

Albert joins a burgeoning group of people with Indigenous blood who have taken to mixed media. If not a movement as such, artists such as Gordon Bennett, Tracey Moffatt, Brook Andrew, Darren Siwes and Destiny Deacon, to name but a few, are linked by both a highly tuned postmodern awareness and a powerful desire to re-address just what it means to be Aboriginal in contemporary Australia.

While he has often used photography in his practice – including the witty 2006 series 50perCENT which reenacted scenarios based on the African American rapper – his most recent works have concentrated on wordplay to examine the alienation and displacement of Indigenous people.

Now based in Brisbane, Albert was born in Cardwell in the rainforest region of far north Queensland into the language group Girramay. In 2004 he completed a degree in visual arts majoring in contemporary Australian Indigenous art.
Albert was awarded the 2007 Sunshine Coast Art Prize in Queensland and an award in the NEWflames program in the Campfire Group Studios in Brisbane. His work is recognised by institutional collections in Australia, including the National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Monash Gallery of Art, University of Queensland Art Museum, Caloundra Regional Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Griffith Artworks and Queensland Art Gallery.
Albert is also involved with the proppaNOW Aboriginal artists collective, a group whose artworks and activities questions the position ascribed to Aboriginal people and culture within contemporary Australia. Other members are Vernon Ah Kee, Bianca Beetson, Richard Bell, Andrea Fisher, Gordon Hookey, Jennifer Herd and Laurie Neilson.

Ashley Crawford

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