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Vivien Johnson: Papunya’s Daughters


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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.


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 an... Read more


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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.