1st Edition

Crosscurrents in Australian First Nations and Non-Indigenous Art

Edited By Sarah Scott, Helen McDonald, Caroline Jordan Copyright 2024
    230 Pages 6 Color & 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 6 Color & 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This edited collection examines art resulting from cross-cultural interactions between Australian First Nations and non-Indigenous people, from the British invasion to today.

    Focusing on themes of collaboration and dialogue, the book includes two conversations between First Nations and non-Indigenous authors and an historian’s self-reflexive account of mediating between traditional owners and an international art auction house to repatriate art. There are studies of ‘reverse appropriation‘ by early nineteenth-century Aboriginal carvers of tourist artefacts and the production of enigmatic toa. Cross-cultural dialogue is traced from the post-war period to ‘Aboriginalism’ in design and the First Nations fashion industry of today. Transculturation, conceptualism, and collaboration are contextualised in the 1980s, a pivotal decade for the growth of collaborative First Nations exhibitions. Within the current circumstances of political protest in photographic portraiture and against the mining of sacred Aboriginal land, Crosscurrents in Australian First Nations and Non-Indigenous Art testifies to the need for Australian institutions to collaborate with First Nations people more often and better.   

    This book will appeal to students and scholars of art history, Indigenous anthropology, and museum and heritage studies.


    Sarah Scott, Helen McDonald and Caroline Jordan

    1. The Weight of Grief – Maree Clarke and Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll on Artist-centricity

    Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll in conversation with Maree Clarke

    2. On Working as an Aboriginal Museum Director and Curator of the Berndt Museum

    Catherine Speck in conversation with Vanessa Russ

    3. Price and Provenance: William Barak as an Artist in the Market

    Nikita Vanderbyl

    4. The Duplicity of Emus and Kangaroos: Coats of Arms from the Australian Frontier

    Darren Jorgensen

    5. The Toa of the Dieri

    Martin Edmond

    6. ‘The Arts Are Where Cultures Meet’: A Cross-cultural Analysis of Aboriginal Art in Fashion and Textile Design

    Fabri Blacklock

    7. Aesthetically Similar but Politically Far Apart: The Art and Designs of Bill Onus and Byram Mansell during the Assimilationist Era

    Sarah Scott

    8. Shared Motives: New Art and Curatorial Collaborations in the 1980s

    Catherine De Lorenzo

    9. Decolonisation and Conceptual Art: Collaboration, Appropriation, Transculturation in Australian Contemporary Art

    Ian McLean

    10. Widening the Aperture: Cross-cultural Collaboration – A Perspective from Borroloola

    Wendy Garden

    11. Wrecking Culture: Australian Iconoclash 2020

    Helen McDonald


    Sarah Scott is a lecturer at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, School of Art and Design, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. She writes on non-Indigenous engagement with First Nations art and culture, art patronage, and the representation of Australian art overseas.

    Helen McDonald is an art historian and an associate of the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of Erotic Ambiguities: The Female Nude in Art (2001) and Patricia Piccinini: Nearly Beloved (2012). Her recent research focuses on Australian rock art and art about climate change.

    Caroline Jordan is an art historian and adjunct honorary research officer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences in La Trobe University, Australia. She is the author of Picturesque Pursuits: Colonial Women Artists and the Amateur Tradition (2005) and recent articles in Australian Historical Studies and Gender and History.

    ‘Truth-telling and reconciliation between First Nations and those who have since arrived has become the priority for all Australians, in all aspects of our lives and work. Awareness of this fact has been two centuries, and more, in the making. Indigenous art has been crucial to this development. It is a vivid evocation of a sovereign culture, an offering to fellow Australians and the wider world. Non-Indigenous artists, curators and critics have responded in a variety of ways. The complexities of these exchanges are explored in unprecedented depth and detail in this book. There are fascinating chapters on the experiences of first nations artists and curators, given in their own voices. A precise profile of the life and art of William Barak in Coranderrk in the 1880s and 1890s is woven into an account of the recent sale of one of his works in New York. Interactions between Conceptual artists and leading Papunya painters during the 1980s are explored as are several recent examples of collaborative art making, exhibition curating, and fashion design. The challenges, and the triumphs, of transcultural exchange are on vivid display.’

    Terry Smith, Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Sydney, Australia.