Detail of “A Water Design” painted by Bulun, a Ganalbuingu artist from Milingbi, Australia, ca. 1970-1980. Detail, 84.2.54 (on long term loan to the Maxwell Museum from the Albuquerque Museum)
In the nearly 50 years since the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has been in its present location, the Museum has hosted approximately 150 temporary exhibitions. Over the next few weeks, we will look back at some of them.
When Maxwell Museum Director J.J. Brody decided to mount an exhibition of paintings on Eucalyptus bark made by Indigenous Australian artists, he described his envisioned exhibition of “a fairly simple-minded exhibition to acquaint the local population with a type of artwork unfamiliar to Southwesterners.” The exhibit he and Museum staff created in 1975 was much more than that.
It featured 18 paintings from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Erik Bromberg, and other Australian objects from the Maxwell Collections. For several paintings, label text recounted in detail the stories the paintings told. Other labels informed visitors about the history, traditions, and variations of bark painting for the tourist and collectors market, noting that
“The barks on exhibition here are not sacred paintings. Like the errors deliberately introduced into Navajo sandpaintings made in public, these paintings were executed in the secular style required when tribal mysteries are represented for the uninitiated.”
The Maxwell Museum Aboriginal Australian collections do include the Brombergs paintings. However, the Museum does care for an array of Australian material culture and artwork, including a number of bark paintings, including the ones shown here that are held on long-term loan from the Albuquerque Museum.
To learn more about the many artistic traditions of Aboriginal Australians, visit https://kluge-ruhe.org/education/essential-introduction-aboriginal-art-25-facts/