NGV unveils major bequest and commissions - Art Collector

Jonathan Jones with his work for the Felton Bequest, National Gallery of Victoria. Courtesy: the artist and NGV, Melbourne

30 May 2011 | The National Gallery of Victoria has received a gift of 173 Indigenous works of art, including three by contemporary artists Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew and Jonathan Jones who were commissioned to create works that pay homage to the celebrated Wurundjeri artist William Barak.

These pieces have been gifted by the Felton Bequest, established in 1904 by the NGV’s greatest benefactor, Alfred Felton.

Director Gerard Vaughan says it is the most significant gift of Indigenous art in the gallery’s 150-year history.

To date, the Felton Bequest has contributed over 15,000 works to the NGV collection.

“The Barak commissions pay tribute to one of the most important figures of 19th century Australian Indigenous art, acknowledging Barak’s central place in the history of Victoria and the NGV,” says Vaughan.

William Barak was born in country of the Wurundjeri people and became a leading Indigenous artist and figure in Melbourne during the 19th century.

Vernon Ah Kee has produced a multimedia installation for his commission, Brook Andrew has also created an installation, and Jonathan Jones has created five light boxes that map important cultural designs belonging to Barak.

“Like all true leaders Barak possessed a myriad of qualities and rose to the challenge being many things to many people – a cultural ambassador and advocator, a devoted father and an insightful and gifted artist,” says Jones.

“The multiple elements of this installation reflect on the different aspects of Barak’s life, along with his community responsibilities and in turn the support he received, all of which are brought together by the use of light.

“Light and light‐scapes can be seen as a means of representing living ideas, of mapping important cultural designs that signify the community in relation to the individual, and creating shared cultural spaces. Barak created a new space to live within; a space and an example which we continue to aspire to for future generations.”

The Felton Bequest gifts will be on view at the NGV until late 2011.

Jane O'Sullivan

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