Sharing the National Collection: First Nations video artworks for the Blue Mountains

Four nationally significant video works of art by female First Nations artists will go on show at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre as part of the Albanese Labor Government’s Sharing the National Collection initiative.

The works, on loan from the National Gallery of Australia, have been selected in consultation with local Dharug curator and artist Leanne Tobin and include:

  • Bliss by Fiona Foley
  • Hunting Ground (Haunted) & (Pastoral), Van Diemen’s Land by Julie Gough and Angus Ashton
  • Poles Apart by r e a
  • Toponymic interventions #3 by Megan Cope.

These works will take pride of place alongside video artworks by local Blue Mountains artists Aunty Sharyn Halls (with Craig Bender and Vera Hong), Jo Clancy (with Sue Healey) and Leanne Tobin.

Visitors to the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre will be able to enjoy the works for two years from the 15th of December 2023, as part of a new exhibition, Ngurra Bayala (Country speaks).

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke, said it was great to see significant pieces from the national collection shared with regional galleries.

“The National Gallery’s collection belongs to all Australians, but at any point in time 98 per cent of it is in storage.

“That’s all changed with Sharing the National Collection as part of our National Cultural Policy Revive.

“It means we get these artworks out of dark rooms in Canberra and lit up at galleries across the country.

“I can’t wait to see these works in their new home at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.”

Member for Macquarie and Special Envoy for the Arts, Susan Templeman, said that she was delighted that Blue Mountains has moved early to host artworks under the initiative, and that they’ve chosen First Nations’ works.

“It is wonderful that the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre has seized the opportunity to draw art works from the national art collection and share them with new audiences. I think they will be appreciated by our own local community, which deeply values creative expression, but also attract visitors from outside the region over the next two years.”

Sharing the National Collection is part of Revive, Australia’s new national cultural policy, with $11.8m over four years to fund the costs of transporting, installing and insuring works in the national art collection so that they can be seen across the country for extended periods.

Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr Nick Mitzevich, welcomed the opportunity to showcase the Gallery’s diverse collection across the country.

“The National Gallery is proud to hold Australia’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and this partnership with Blue Mountains Cultural Centre provides a meaningful opportunity to share First Nations stories though the digital medium.

“Displaying these nationally significant video works alongside those by local First Nations artists will provide exciting new contexts and conversations in contemporary art,” Dr Mitzevich said.

Rilka Oakley, Artistic Program Leader, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre said, “Working with Dharug curator Leanne Tobin on Ngurra Bayala (Country speaks) has brought together video works by First Nations women that explore their country, their history and their stories.

“The opportunity to be part of the Sharing the National Collection initiative has enabled us to connect with First Nations work in the national collection and contemporise our World Heritage exhibition by bringing seven videos into the space for the next two years.”

Reflecting on the works she has selected, Leanne Tobin said, “It’s the truth telling of stories of place. It’s the artists telling personal accounts from Ngurra, from Country… the artists’ own stories. Hopefully the selection encourages people to come into the gallery. And hopefully, they leave with some kind of insight.”

The works can be viewed via the National Gallery’s website.

Regional and suburban galleries can register their expressions of interest in sharing the national collection via this link.