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National Gallery Of Australia Postpones Indigenous Exhibition Amid Allegations

The National Gallery of Australia has postponed its major Aboriginal artwork exhibition amidst allegations of tampering by white staff.

The museum issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing that the exhibition  Ngura Pulka – Epic Country has been postponed. The announcement came mere days before the exhibition was scheduled to be opened. The exhibition – one of the biggest covering Australian Aboriginal art – was focused on artists hailing from the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) region. The APY region is a collection of various Aboriginal communities, the biggest in the country. The works were coming from APY Art Center Collective (ACC).

The problem first began in April, when The Australian ran a report alleging that white studio staff at the APY ACC had been painting over the Aboriginal artworks without consulting the artists. The report also had evidence suggesting that non-indigenous staff members made key decisions about how the APY history would be represented.

When the news first broke, the National Gallery of Australia took prompt action and formed a committee to investigate the issue. The main concerns were deciding the provenance of the works being displayed, as well as finding any cases of discrimination. The Australian government also got involved in the issue. The committee was supposed to submit its report by May 31.

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However, seeing that the investigation was taking more time, the museum decided to postpone the exhibition indefinitely. The statement read: “The National Gallery will work with the artists and Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) community leaders in relation to the exhibition and will await the outcome of both reviews. The National Gallery is committed to continuing to work with APY Lands artists and supporting their ground-breaking work.” The APY ACC welcomed their decision.