Investigating art as national identity

Churchill Fellowship Award recipient Vanessa Russ.
Churchill Fellowship Award recipient Vanessa Russ.

As part of her post honours diploma, Ms Russ looked into how Aboriginal art was acquired by Australia’s state galleries and how they represented the culture.

Ms Russ’ research focused on the Art Gallery of New South Wales and its Aboriginal art collection from the 1950s onwards which, she said, shifted Australian art history.

She said the history hadn’t been captured properly with a dominating westernised history, decisions and perspectives.

‘State galleries should actually represent people in that state,’ Ms Russ said.

‘They were created by the people who represent organisations like Native Australian organisation and they were white western British orientated men.

‘They weren’t galleries that represented their history and we see that throughout the world.

‘Now as we become more open to difference and diversity and celebrate multicultural connections to society, what are these galleries doing to incorporate those people.’

Born and bred in the Kimberley, Ms Russ has been awarded a Churchill Fellow to further her research into how art galleries construct and represent national identity across the world.

She will travel to the United States and South-East Asia to investigate public art galleries to understand how they foster diversity and advocate for multi-cultural exhibitions and acquisitions to benefit Australia’s state galleries and their representation of national identity.