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Midday Shot

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at The Wheeler Centre

Vivien Johnson: Papunya’s Daughters

Papunya, 240 kilometres from Alice Springs, is the closest town to Australia’s continental pole of inaccessibility – the furthest point from any coastline. It’s in the very centre of the continent and it’s central to the history of contemporary Aboriginal art.

That history, however, is complicated. Papunya was the home of the Western Desert art movement in the 1970s, which brought the Aboriginal art of central Australia to the attention of the world. Exploitative commercial gallery owners and dealers cast a dark shadow on the town following the glory years, but the Papunya painting movement is now experiencing a renaissance, led by some particularly talented women artists. Some of these are among the first women in the desert to join the original Papunya art movement.

Vivien Johnson is a curator and researcher who has written extensively about the art of Papunya. In this midday session, she will discuss the town’s rich history, from its emergence as a site of art production to the achievements of its rising artistic stars today.


Portrait of Vivien Johnson

Vivien Johnson

Sydney writer, researcher, curator and teacher Vivien Johnson’s pioneering books on Western Desert artists and her work on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights have had considerable social impact. She curated the 2003-5 Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri national touring retrospective and the National Museum of Australia’s Papunya Painting: out of the desert (2007-8) which toured to Sydney and Beijing. JohnsonLives of the Papunya Tula Artists won the 2009 Chief Minister’s Northern Territory History Book Award. Once Upon a Time in Papunya (2010) and her most recent book Streets of Papunya: The reinvention of Papunya painting (2015) are published by NewSouth. 

Midday Shot

We love exploring ideas here at the Wheeler Centre, and encouraging others to do the same. That’s why every second Thursday lunchtime, we hand the microphone over to thinkers, dreamers, writers and orators, so they can share the ideas that have been occupying them the most.

It’s a space to tunnel deep into a train of thought and emerge with surprising conclusions, recommendations for change, or simply a more evolved set of questions. The flexible format provides a platform for the eclectic, topical and enlightening: stories and opinions you won’t hear elsewhere.

Come for your lunch break and leave refreshed, your brain buzzing.


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