Three years ago it was announced
that the Tate would partner with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and
Qantas Group, the official airline of Australia, to form the International
Joint Acquisition Programme for contemporary Australian art. The five year
partnership has purchased a total of 20 works by 12 artists so far, eight of
which were purchased this year.
The goal of this project is not only
to expand the holdings of Australian art at these two museums. It has something
more to do with offering a more broad understanding of Australian art,
especially as it relates to the colonial history of the country. A pop-up
window on the MCA website currently states that the museum “acknowledges the
Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners of the land and
waters upon which the MCA stands”. Four of the artists whose work has so far been purchased
by the Tate/MCA/Qantas partnership consider their heritage to be aboriginal.
It is interesting to note that the
word “eora” means “people,” or “this place”. It is supposedly how aboriginal
people once referred to themselves when asked by colonists who they are or
where they came from. They were calling themselves locals. Perhaps everyone who
lives in Sydney today could call themselves eora. Nonetheless, considering
aboriginal people were “the traditional owners of the land and waters” there
for more than 60,000 years before Europeans arrived just a few centuries ago,
perhaps more than four of the twelve artists collected by this programme should
represent their ancestral ranks.
Image courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Imants Tillers, Kangaroo Blank, 1988. Tate and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, purchased jointly with funds provided by the Qantas Foundation 2018.