The Alison Kelly Collection of Indigenous Art
We are delighted to present these works from The Alison Kelly Collection, a compelling myriad of paintings, barks and Lorrkon, works on paper, and prints showcasing traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art.
Spanning the Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Central Desert and the Tiwi Islands, they feature a substantial component of leading female artists, including two notable paintings from Emily Kame Kngwarreye; a selection of works by Marie Josette Orsto and her mother, Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, both prominent Tiwi Design artists; energetic examples of Minnie Pwerle and Makinti Napanangka’s paintings and dynamic work by the celebrated Spinifex women’s collaboration. These works confirm Alison’s deep understanding and respect for Indigenous culture; and showcase her passion and cultivated expertise in the field.
Alison developed a keen interest in Aboriginal art during her studies in Art History at Latrobe University. After graduation in 1994, she secured a role in a bustling city art gallery and volunteered as a guide at the National Gallery of Victoria. Her exposure to the art world and family encouragement inspired her to establish a gallery promoting and supporting Aboriginal-led art centres and their artists. The gallery’s ethos was rooted in carefully and thoughtfully selecting works. Alison nurtured close relationships with the Aboriginal-owned art centres, making periodic trips to the Western Desert, Utopia, Papunya Tula, Balgo Hills and the Tiwi Islands.
Through her travels to the many central and remote Aboriginal-run centres, Alison recalls the fondness and awe evoked by journeying to these often marginal communities, engaging with the artists— perceptive of what a great privilege it was to meet them and witness their creativity firsthand. “So much of the content of the paintings is not for us to know about because it is to do with Aboriginal traditions and their ceremonial myths and legends,” Alison says. “To just know a little bit about the culture, where the paintings might come from, and how they relate to these stories enthrals people. Then people just love it. I suppose that is what happened to me.”
A distinguished selection of prints in the sale (lots 94-110) illustrates Alison’s commitment to championing the oft-underrated practice of printmaking which exposed artists to a medium that would allow them to reach a broader audience across Australia and internationally. One notable achievement is the celebrated suite Custodians: Country and Culture, co-published with printmaker Basil Hall and with Rose and Angus Cameron from Nomad Art in Darwin. An edition of this suite was acquired by the British Museum in 2009, and another edition is part of the collection of the Federal Parliament. Select works from this suite were included in the exhibition Out of Australia – Prints and Drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas, held in May 2011. This sale provides an exquisite collection of prints that serve as a further example of the talents of artists
traditionally recognised for their paintings by demonstrating their exceptional skill in this timeless medium.
As a private and professional figure in the contemporary Aboriginal art scene, Alison has made a meaningful impact by collecting and placing artworks in private collectors with integrity and donating several works to public spaces, such as the National Gallery of Victoria. This collection encompasses paintings, barks and works on paper from across Australia by prominent and sought-after Indigenous artists, respectfully sourced and carefully selected to appeal to every tier of collector.
EMILY KAME KNGWARREYE (CIRCA 1909-1996), My Country 1994
© Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency, 2023
© Spinifex Arts Project Aboriginal Corporation/Copyright Agency, 2023
© Dorothy Robinson Napangardi/Copyright Agency, 2023