Mornington Island Arts & Crafts - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

Featured as part of the annual special "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2009"

It was the Kaiadilt women of Bentinck Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria who took the art world by surprise in 2008. Led by 81-year-old Sally Gabori – perhaps Australia’s oldest-ever painting prodigy – these women won over curators, gallerists and collectors with their vibrant acrylic hues, sensual brushwork and sheer enthusiasm for their medium.

Bentinck Island’s success is even more astounding given that the centre was established just four years ago – prior to that no painting culture existed on the island. Of the group it was Gabori who first picked up a brush at the Mornington Island arts and craft centre a few years ago, and it was her work that was the most sought after in 2008.

“Sally had an outstanding year, art lovers just can’t resist her works,” says Beverly Knight of Alcaston Galery in Melbourne, who held a Gabori solo show during the Melbourne Art Fair.

“She was by far the most popular and sought-after artist at the art fair,” says Dallas Gold, of Raft in Darwin, who held a Bentinck Island group show in 2008. “Sally’s an expressive artist…an old lady chucking paint around and having fun. That genre of expressive painting can be a bit hit-and-miss but with Sally it was all good.”

Knight credits Brett Evans, Director of the Mornington Island Art Centre where the Bentinck Project began, as a major force behind the Kaiadilt women’s market success.

“He’s a one-man band up there and works incredibly hard and has really invigorated what is a fledgling art centre,” she says.

For Knight, Evans’ energy typifies what is happening on a broader scale in Queensland, where the arts in general are benefiting from a new energy and commitment on the part of the State Government.

“It’s really all happening in Queensland at the moment,” she says. “There’s a tremendous energy there, and a lot of enthusiasm in the government and in art institutions.”

Jane Hampson

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