Papunya Tula - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

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

Founder of the Central and Western Desert Art Movement and a vocal advocate of the Aboriginal art centre model, Papunya Tula had a stellar year in 2008 as it reinvented itself with the second and third generation of Indigenous artists.

“For over 20 years they’ve helped develop the careers of their artists,” says Christopher Hodges, Director of Utopia Art in Sydney, one of the leading Papunya Tula galleries in the country. “Any relationship between an art centre and an artist – and an artist and a gallerist – must first concern the artist and the art that they do. Papunya Tula is about ethical representation and it’s very gratifying to see their successes.”

In 2008 Papunya Tula dominated the national awards scene. At the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, Makinti Napanangka won the general award and Doreen Reid Nakamarra the painting award, while Patrick Tjungurrayi won the inaugural West Australian Indigenous Art Award.

“Papunya Tula’s continued professionalism and integrity has helped maintain its popularity at a time when issues of provenance and ethics have been brought into focus,” says Rod McLeish, of Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne.

“A number of their women artists in particular have been producing consistently impressive works, such as Doreen Reid Nakamarra and Yukultji Napangati. And of course Makinti Napanangka has virtually become a national treasure!”

Indeed many gallerists were pleased to see Makinti Napanangka, now elderly and extremely frail, win at the NATSIAAs. The award was perceived as not just a prize for a single artwork; but recognition for Napanangka’s entire career. “She is tried and true and a dedicated artist and we were absolutely overjoyed at her win,” says Beverly Knight, of Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne.

“Makinti’s win was a great achievement and just one of Papunya Tula’s amazing successes [in 2008],” agrees art writer Susan McCulloch. “They’ve managed to maintain good management and reinvent themselves, which is a remarkable achievement.

“They do have a good ability to pass on relationships,” says Hodges. “Changeover can be a delicate thing but Papunya Tula has managed to remain constant.”

Jane Hampson

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