Exhibition of the largest selection of Australian Aboriginal art to have been presented in Europe

Show demonstrates the aboriginal passion of an Austrian collector


Karlheinz Essl, the Austrian entrepreneur, has built a museum for his private collection at Klosterneuburg, near Vienna, concentrating mainly on contemporary art. Unrestricted by the red tape that governs public institutions Mr Essl has been able to indulge his own tastes as this latest exhibition of Aboriginal art demonstrates. “Dreamtime. Contemporary Aboriginal art” includes 80 paintings by Aboriginal artists from the 1970s to today. The art of the indigenous peoples of Australia is little known in mainland Europe and this is the largest selection to have been presented.

Almost half of the objects on display were acquired by Mr Essl during a five-week journey around Australia last year. He visited the “sacred sites” of the Aboriginals: Kakadu National Park, Alice Springs, the spiritual centre of aboriginal art, and the holy mountain of Ayers Rock.

As a guide he took the Australian collector Donald Holt, in whose workshop Emily Kame Kngwarreye, the Aboriginal artist, lived and worked.

The rest of the exhibits were selected by Essl with the aid of Australian curator Michael Eather. They chose pieces from Museums and Galleries in Australia, and also direct from Aboriginal artists.

The final selection includes work from all the regions of Australia that are known for Aboriginal art: the central Western Desert, Kimberley and the North West, Arnhem Land and the urban centres.

The exhibition also contains photographs, maps, texts and objects to illustrate the cultural and spiritual background of the Aboriginal population.

“Dreamtime: contemporary Aboriginal Art” at the Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuberg, near Vienna (until 30 September) Tel: +43 2243 370 50

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘The Aboriginal passion of an Austrian collector'