Ninuku Arts, Kalka - Art Collector

Issue 49, July - September 2009

Having only acquired a fixed premises in 2006, Ninuku Arts has achieved significant international recognition in a startlingly short period of time, reports Amanda Woodard.

Ninuku Arts is situated on the edge of the Western Desert where South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory meet. The land here has been home to the Anangu people for centuries.
Unlike other Indigenous communities that have migrated away from the Western Desert, the Anangu people are still living in country and painting, “keeping country alive” says Abe Temby, manager of Short St Gallery in Broome that held a successful show of new Ninuku art in March this year.

“It’s the second show for us from Ninuku and sales were good. People really responded strongly to the works.” Temby says the art coming out of Ninuku is quite eclectic. “There’s an interesting mix; some of it is quite structured and some quite loose.”

Bronwyn Taylor, manager of Ninuku, chartered a plane to fly three of the artists to the exhibition in Broome: Judy Miller and emerging artists Yangi Yangi Fox and Njankula Watson Walyampari, whose animal paintings were snapped up. “We have a lot of senior artists painting at Ninuku too, in particular Harry Tjutjuna, Jimmy Donegan and Puntjina Monica Watson, who have worked elsewhere before coming here.”

Ninuku group shows were held earlier this year at Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne and Aboriginal and Pacific Art in Sydney. The work of Harry Tjutjuna, Njankula Watson Walyampari and Puntjina Monica Watson appear in state galleries including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia and National Gallery of Victoria. Donegan’s work has also been bought by private collectors in The Netherlands and Germany.

Until 2006, when Ninuku Arts was set up in a mud brick building, a roving art coordinator provided materials, catalogue and sales support. For a relatively embryonic organisation with between 20 to 45 artists drawn from two communities of around 200, it has achieved a lot of attention in a short space of time. Taylor says it’s a boutique centre in as much as “we try to keep things very high quality”. She adds, “so many Australian galleries are wanting to work with us. It’s good in one way but of course, the overseas market needs to be developed.” Red Dot in Singapore recently purchased a couple of Ninuku works and there’s talk of the centre doing a show there next year. Discussions with a German gallery are also underway.

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