NSW galleries with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art
Feel a new connection to the past and present by visiting a gallery or art centre representing Australia’s extraordinary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Spend time absorbing these works – and you might just look at Australia differently.
Across NSW there are numerous galleries, museums, cultural centres and co-operatives championing First Nations art and culture. As you’ll discover, these works can’t be easily pigeon-holed. They span painting, sculpture, photography, weaving and more.
Traditional pieces often reflect the artist’s profound connection to Country while contemporary pieces might challenge accepted colonial history and perspectives. Embrace the opportunity to feel someone else’s story.
In Albury on the NSW/Victorian border, the relatively new MAMA (Murray Art Museum Albury) holds more than 2,400 works, with a strong emphasis on contemporary photography. Among the 600-plus photographs are works from Destiny Deacon and several series by revered photographer and filmmaker Tracey Moffatt.
Housed in a historic emporium on the Silver City’s main drag, Argent Street, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery is NSW’s oldest regional gallery. Its collection of contemporary Aboriginal art includes works by Far West NSW artists Badger Bates and Edith Kennedy.
The holding also includes Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, a desert stockman who became the most celebrated Aboriginal artist of his generation; Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who produced more than 3,000 artworks during an eight-year painting career; and revered Yolngu bark painter David Malangi.
At Corindi Beach north of Woolgoolga on the mid-North Coast is the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Step inside and look around the Wadjar Regional Indigenous Gallery, which exhibits works from First Nations artists from regional NSW.
You can also see artefacts that illuminate thousands of years of Gumbaynggirr life on this part of the NSW coast at the Jalumbo Cultural Heritage Keeping Place. Head to the Pipeclay Café for a meal using native ingredients (think salad wraps with warrigal greens, roo burgers, and scones with dollops of Davidson plum jam and cream). The centre also hosts a monthly weaving circle.
In Lake Macquarie, a 90min drive north of Sydney, visit the Museum of Art and Culture – commonly known as MAC. The museum’s collection includes yapang – a sub-collection of Aboriginal works on paper. Among the collected artists are Sydney-based Jonathan Jones and Jason Wing, Judy Watson, Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Eubena Nampitjin, Ningie Nangala, Kathleen Paddoon and Freddie Timms.
Head to Moree, a lively artesian-spa town on the black-soil plains of northern NSW, for incredible art experiences.
Bank Art Museum Moree (BAMM) occupies a striking Edwardian-style corner building in the town’s centre. It’s renowned for its Aboriginal art collection, one of the most significant in regional NSW.
See more Indigenous artworks at Yaama Ganu Gallery on Balo Street. Inspect exhibited works, ask to see what’s in the stockroom and relax afterwards in the adjoining café.
The Art Gallery of NSW’s extensive collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art runs the gamut from desert paintings and saltwater sculptures to contemporary representations of “blak city culture”. Exhibitions and displays might include politically charged sculptures from Karla Dickens, who lives in Lismore, and the late Lin Onus’s iconic cross-hatched Fruit Bats, which dangle from a suburban Hills Hoist.
Among the cutting-edge works held by the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in The Rocks are photographs by Sydney-based Tony Albert, paintings by Sydney-based Daniel Boyd, installations by Sydney-born Brook Andrew and Esme Timbery’s poignant installation Shellworked slippers, a nod to both the Stolen Generations and the craft practices of Indigenous people living at La Perouse on the shores of Botany Bay.
In the inner-west suburb of Leichhardt you’ll find the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, established in 1987 by a group of 10 Indigenous artists – many of whom (such as Tracey Moffatt) went on to international acclaim. They wanted to challenge preconceptions of city-based Indigenous artists by carving out a unique space. The co-operative’s goal is to promote artists whose language groups exist within NSW’s state boundaries.
In nearby Rozelle is Kate Owen Gallery, which represents more than 200 Aboriginal artists from across Australia.
Cooee Art comprises two galleries – in inner-city Redfern (the birthplace of Australia’s urban Aboriginal civil rights movement) and at Bondi Beach. The gallery in the heart of Aboriginal Sydney is the flagship space, while the beachside location is a boutique collector’s showroom gallery.
Established in 1981, Cooee is Australia’s oldest exhibiting Indigenous fine-art gallery. The stockroom includes more than 3,000 works by 150 artists in mediums that include painting, sculpture, prints, bark paintings and artefacts.
Among the almost 3,000 works in the Wollongong Art Gallery collection are Indigenous paintings, screen-prints, photographs, carvings, hunting artefacts, dancing sticks, bark paintings and didjeridus. NSW artists Michael Riley, Harry Wedge, Ruby O Shelton and Jayson Buddle are all represented in the collection.