Roslyn Russell, Kylie Winkworth
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2010
ISBN 97 80977544363 (pbk)
Provenance and Indigenous culture
Provenance is of critical importance in relation to Indigenous art and artefacts, both for historical material and contemporary art. Provenance has been a key issue in recent debates and legal cases over the authenticity of some works attributed to noted Aboriginal artists. There is also growing concern about the exploitation of some contemporary Aboriginal artists working outside established art centres and the network of reputable dealers. Part of the dealers' role is to maintain visual and documentary records of the art produced and sold, which in turn underpins an artist's catalogue raisonné. This is the key point of reference and research for the future and acts to verify the provenance and authenticity of the artist's work.
The rich documentation of this collection, held in AIATSIS, provides a comprehensive provenance for the Aurukun carvings collection, and enhances its significance.
Wood sculpture of a dingo
Photo: George Serras National Museum of Australia
In 1961 Frederick McCarthy, one of the first professionally trained anthropologists/archaeologists to work in an Australian museum, visited the Indigenous community at Aurukun, Queensland. He recorded, filmed and photographed forty-three traditional dance dramas and collected and documented sculptures that formed part of the ceremonies. The sculptures, which are works of considerable aesthetic and spiritual significance, are now part of the collection of the National Museum of Australia. The extensive documentation of this collection, in films, photographs and notes, is now held in the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS); and correspondence relating to the formation of the carvings collection is held in the National Museum of Australia. The richness of the documentation provides an extensive provenance to the entire Aurukun collection held in these two organisations, which are co-located on Acton Peninsula, Canberra. Frederick McCarthy became Foundation Principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (which later became AIATSIS) in 1964. The association of the collection and its donor, a significant personality in the history of Indigenous scholarship, in the material held by these two national organisations, enhances the significance of the whole collection.