The Power Institute Foundation for Art and Visual Culture

How Aboriginies Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art



Edited by Ian McLean


Winner of the 2012 AAANZ Best Edited Book/Anthology Prize


How Aboriginies Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art is the first anthology to chronicle the global critical reception of Aboriginal art since the early 1980s, when the art world began to understand it as contemporary art. Featuring 96 authors – including art critics and historians, curators, art centre co-ordinators and managers, artists, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers and novelists – it conveys a diversity of thinking and approaches. Together with editor Ian McLean’s important introductory essay and epilogue, the anthology argues for a re-evaluation of Aboriginal art’s critical intervention into contemporary art since its seduction of the art world a quarter-century ago.

About the Editor

Ian McLean is a well-known commentator on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australian art and the intersection of Indigenous and settler cultures. He has published extensively in Australia and overseas. His books include The Art of Gordon Bennett and White Aborigines: Identity Politics in Australian Art. He is Professor of Australian Art History at the University of Western Australia and the University of Wollongong, and serves on the advisory boards of the journals Third Text, World Art and National Identities.

The anthology is chronological commencing in 1945 and running through to 2007. Assembled into contextual chapters of 'autonomous narratives', McLean states clearly from the outset that the anthology intends to 'weave a coherent – though not comprehensive – picture of the artworld’s infatuation with Aboriginal art.'
—Brenda L Croft, reviewed in Artlink


Aboriginal art, for all the attention it receives, remains underappreciated for the profound impact it has had, and will continue to have, on national and international art. Those of us who write about, research, or share a passion for this art in Australia understand it to be among the most significant movements in our increasingly global art history. How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art: Writing on Aboriginal Contemporary Art moves past the platitudes and lazy rhetoric to make an eloquent and definitive case for why that is ... McLean’s line of questioning – theoretically global, historically local and anthropologically informed – illuminates myriad paths forward into an emerging and uniquely Australian Art history that would be worthy of the name.
—John Carty, reviewed in Aboriginal History 


How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art belongs on the bookshelves of anyone who cares about Aboriginal art or who seeks even a basic introduction to the complexities of what may be not simply the 'last great art movement of the twentieth century,' but the first of the twenty-first.
—Will Owen, reviewed in Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American Eye


ISBN 978-0909952372
359 pages
59 colour images

Published with the assistance of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Getty Foundation and the Nelson Meers Foundation.



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