Richard Bell, 2003 winner of the Telstra NATSIAA
When: 14 August - November 7 2010; Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun & Public holidays 10am- 5pm
Where: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Tickets: Entry to the museum by donation
While Papunya Tula, or "dot painting", is the best known genre of Australian indigenous art, there is a good deal more to savour than these popular ancestral narratives. The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award showcases work that can be arresting, surprising or just plain beautiful.
Now in its twenty-seventh year, this annual event scours the country to select 100 works for review. New Media, bark painting, general painting, 3D objects and works on paper are displayed with a prize in each category. Our awe is reserved, however, for the $40,000 Telstra Award which is granted to the artist of the year's most remarkable work.
Winners of the grand prize frequently go on to enjoy broad acclaim. In 2003, the extraordinary Richard Bell (pictured) took out the top gong for his Bell's Theorem. The notoriously defiant painter wore a lewd t-shirt to receive his prize. No one was particularly surprised. His work, after all, was an explicit critique of the competition. "Aboriginal Art", said the text on his work, "It's a white thing."
Artists do not hold back here to serve up a museum-friendly version of "Aboriginal Art". Likewise, judges for this prize do not withdraw when confronted with difficult work. The upshot for us gallery goers is one delightful shock.
Helen Razer, Citysearch