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Collection history

Collection history

WARNING: Visitors should be aware that this website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


From Papunya to Canberra

Many of the works in this exhibition were collected by the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council during the 1970s and have never been exhibited publicly in Australia.

The Aboriginal Arts Board was created in 1973, with members who were all Indigenous Australians.

Uta Uta Tjangala raises his arm, watched by three men.
An exuberant moment for Uta Uta Tjangala (centre) during the creation of his masterpiece Yumari, 1981. Photo: Fred Myers.

It fostered Aboriginal arts, literature, theatre, dance, music, painting and craft, and also provided grants for Aboriginal communities to employ managers and to help preserve and sustain Aboriginal culture, arts and crafts.

Some of the Papunya paintings bought by the Aboriginal Arts Board were lent or given to Australian embassies around the world.

Others were donated to public museums and galleries in Australia and overseas. These gifts helped to raise the profile of Aboriginal art in the commercial art market.

The Aboriginal Arts Board also purchased paintings for display in travelling exhibitions, which toured Africa, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1973 and 1981.

In the 1980s the Board wound up its exhibition program and, in 1990, the historic collection of Papunya paintings was transferred to the National Museum of Australia.