Introduction to Australian Art

The art of Australia is as exciting as the history of the Australian continent itself.
While the indigenous culture, known here as the Aboriginal culture, can look back on over 45,000 years of existence, the origin of the art of non-Indigenous Australians is settled by Australian historians in the late nineteenth century, the colonisation of Australia by Europeans began in 1788. Thus, Australian art today is still segmented into the art of the natives and the art of the non-Indigenous Australians. This classification is on the one hand a testimony of a settlement history but on the other hand also a testimony of respect for the independent culture of the indigenous people of Australia. Nevertheless, the history of Australia shows us that strong connections between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians have been created in art. Australia shines today in the 21st century with incredibly rich and diverse forms of expression in art and culture, which result from the remoteness of Australia, the deeply rooted indigenous culture and the numerous influences.

Contemporary Australian art has made an international career and taken its place on the world stage. Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists reflect Australia’s diversity, uniqueness and creativity. Innovative and daring positions, as well as new forms of expression by contemporary Australian artists, have attracted great interest and recognition around the world and can be seen in public and private collections around the globe.

Have a look at an Australian vision of things

  • Australia’s culture is internationally popular because it reflects the freshness, courage and excellence of our national enterprise. The energy, courage and agility differentiate us on a global level. And that happens and reflects what many people want right now, around the world – a willingness to explore new ideas and take creative risks and see old things in a new light.
  • Everything that is recognizably Australian and very different today than two or three decades ago. To the extent that the entire Australian culture and what it means to be “Australian” had to be redefined. The old models no longer count; we have opened the cultural cabinet, which is ours alone, and have found many models, great space and diversity.
  • The isolated location of our island continent – which has often been judged negatively – has indeed become a strength. We demonstrated this with a spectacular appearance at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics 2000, when billions of people all over the world were able to experience it: Australia does things differently, telling stories that are as unique and diverse as the society and landscape they come from – home to the oldest continuous culture in the world and a colourful cultural mix of many different immigrant groups.

Nowhere else in the world can you experience three things at once: the Australian landscape, the Australian culture and the Australian people, and these are bonded inseparably with the Australian art. They tell the story of who we are, our identity today, and that is our unique selling point.

Source: Extract from Jennifer Bott, CEO of the Australia Council (Director of the Australian Department of Culture) at the National Convention Center, Canberra, 1 June 2004.