Gordon Bennett Outsider Essay

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It highlights how the 1970s and 1980s, in particular, witnessed a series of changes that brought about new kinds of Indigenous engagement and presentation within Australia’s public galleries and museums.

Such developments could not have been accomplished within previous institutional practices.

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Aboriginal art had a restricted presence in Australian museums in the first half of the twentieth century.

Australia’s state and national galleries have been acquiring Indigenous art purposively since the 1950s.

They have established staffing structures and programs providing permanent attention to Indigenous art as a central aspect of their institutional mission; meanwhile the largest institutions have developed dedicated curatorial departments supporting specialised collections and exhibitions.

Anthropologists have also played a key role in advocacy and technical support of many Indigenous causes – especially in providing evidence of cultural continuity and historical documentation for cultural history, repatriation issues and native title claims.

However in terms of , this essay takes issue with an argument that conceptually elevates anthropology’s procedures over the very different vantage points of art.

In particular, structural change in relation to cultural authority and responsibility for knowledge was required to bring Indigenous perspectives, presence and creativity into mainstream institutions.

[7] It is remarkable how contrasting have been the approaches underlying the ethnographic presentation of Indigenous art in Australian natural history or anthropology museums, and Indigenous exhibitions, often of the same material, in art museums.


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