New exhibition of Arnhem Land barks opens at Trinity College

A new exhibition opened on the 30 May 2019 in the Professor Sir Joseph Burke Gallery (Burke Gallery), at Trinity College. Timed as part of the University’s broader activities around National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June), Revealed: Arnhem Land Barks from the Anita Castan Collection – Yirrkala and Milingimbishowcases an extraordinary collection of bark paintings acquired in the mid-1960s by the young American collector, Kenneth Neybert.

The collection’s founding coincides with a pivotal decade for the Yolngu peoples of northeast Arnhem Land. In 1962, the Australian Federal Government granted rights to bauxite mining company Nabalco on the Gove Peninsula, without prior consultation with the Traditional Owners. The event prompted the Yirrkala Bark Petition the following year, an assertion of Yolngu traditional custodianship of the land, and triggered an eight-year long legal action known as the Gove land rights case. Although ultimately the case failed in 1971, it paved the way for the widely known overturning of the notion of terra nulliusin the Mabo Case in 1993.

At the same time, northeast Arnhem Land had captured the attention of national and international artists, curators and gallery directors alike. The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria would seek to enrich their fledgling Aboriginal art collections with Arnhem Land barks during the 1950s and 60s, while European and American collectors began acquiring works as an early commercial market developed.

Kenneth Neybert’s collection was eventually acquired by Anita Castan in memory of her brother-in-law, the late Ron Castan QC, senior counsel in the Mabo Case and one of the lawyers involved in the original Gove land rights case. Brought back from the US just prior to 9/11, this extraordinarily significant collection from two major art-producing communities in Arnhem Land is both rich in cultural and artistic traditions.

The exhibition is on display until 5 September 2019 in the Burke Gallery in the Gateway Building, on Tin Alley, and open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 4pm.'

Opening night of Revealed: Arnhem Land Barks from the Anita Castan Collection – Yirrkala and Milingimbi

Image: Opening night of Revealed: Arnhem Land Barks from the Anita Castan Collection – Yirrkala and Milingimbi