Tate, MCA and Qantas announce eight new Australian artwork acquisitions

LONDON—Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) announced the acquisition of eight new artworks in their International Joint Acquisition Programme for contemporary Australian art, supported by Qantas. Now in its third year, the partnership between Tate, MCA and Qantas continues to enrich both museums’ holdings of Australian art, helping Australian artists reach global audiences.

Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Maria Fernanda Cardoso, On the Origins or Art – Actual Size II Maratus Volans Abdomen 2016. Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, purchased jointly with funds provided by the Qantas Foundation 2018

Ranging from an early moment in the history of Australian contemporary art through to recent work, the depth and diversity of Australian art practice is represented in this third round of acquisitions. It includes works by artists who forged new ground in Australian contemporary art, paving the way for others, through to that of younger artists.

Early works by Maria Fernanda Cardoso (Corn Cob Coil 1989, Corn Drawings 1985-89 and On the Origins of Art I-II 2016) and Rosalie Gascoigne (Habitation 1984) reveal how everyday readymade materials can be transformed into extraordinary poetic assemblages and sculptures. Juan Davila’s Love 1988 painting is a prescient commentary on the AIDS crisis as a global phenomenon, whilst his Yawar Fiesta 1998 explores the impact of colonial policies on indigenous peoples through satiric intertwining of contemporary politics and art historical references, including European history painting, Latin American modernism, American pop and Aboriginal art.

Also included in this round of acquisitions are Blue Reflex 1966, an early painting by Ian Burn, considered one of the key voices in the development of conceptual art in Australia, and Kangaroo Blank, a 1988 painting by Imants Tillers, whose work from the 1980s, along with that of Davila, is part of an international dialogue about appropriation and postmodernism in painting.

2018 MCA Tate - Rosalie Gascoigne, Habitation, 1984 (high res)
Rosalie Gasgoigne Habitation 1984 Tate and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Martin Gascoigne, and with the support of the Qantas Foundation, 2018

To date – halfway through the five-year program – twenty works by twelve artists and artist partnerships have been acquired for the collections of Tate and MCA, a grouping of artworks which reveal and convey something of the complexities of Australian society, as well as the richness of contemporary art practice across the country.

The acquisitions are by artists from a range of cultural backgrounds, including prominent Aboriginal artists Vernon Ah Kee, Richard Bell, Gordon Bennett and Judy Watson. These, along with works by artists such as Juan Davila, Peter Kennedy and John Hughes, Helen Johnson and Imants Tillers, pose difficult questions about Australian history and society, or in the case of Susan Norrie’s video work Transit 2011, focus our attention on international events and their impact upon the ways we think about the world.

Just as significantly, the first three years of the programme saw acquisitions across a variety of media, from video through to painting and printmaking, reflecting the expanded material basis of contemporary art.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director of the MCA, said

The acquired works are part of an international artistic dialogue, as are the artists – some having been born, lived for significant periods of time, or worked and exhibited extensively outside of Australia. They connect with related experiences represented by other artists internationally, highlighting both the particularities of Australian society and culture, as well as its interconnectedness with global forces.

Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, said

The variety and quality of each year’s joint acquisitions show how successful partnerships like this can be. Working with the MCA has enabled us to learn from their expertise as well as to build on our own. With the support of Qantas, we are beginning to transform the way Tate can represent the exciting contributions made to contemporary art in this region.

Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer, Vanessa Hudson, said

As Australia’s national carrier, we are extremely proud to support this unique acquisition program that helps showcase the best of Australian art to the world and which also contributes to reshaping the understanding about contemporary Australian art internationally.


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