Of Country and Culture: The Lam Collection of Contemporary Australian Aboriginal Art 

February 24 – May 14, 2017

Cowden Gallery 

Untitled Babui


Of Country and Culture celebrates the gift to the Museum of over one hundred objects created by Aboriginal artists since the mid-1990s. This extraordinary collection, which includes a significant number of works by women artists, comes to the Museum from May and Victor Lam.

The Lams' enthusiasm for contemporary Aboriginal art began when they visited Spirit Country, a 2000 traveling exhibition organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and presented at the San Antonio Museum of Art, that showcased the Gantner Myer collection of Aboriginal art. Inspired by the remarkable objects on view, May, a long-time Museum Trustee, and her daughter Dorothy traveled to Australia where they visited Aboriginal communities across the continent and amassed an outstanding collection.

Organized thematically, Of Country and Culture reveals powerful, recurring themes in contemporary Aboriginal art, which have ancient roots, including body and sand paintings and Aboriginal rock art dating back 40,000 years. The works by these contemporary artists depict many of the designs and subjects of their ancestors and demonstrate similar cultural ties to land, heritage, and visual communication. At the same time, there are also connections to themes in international contemporary art, such as identity, materiality, and abstraction.

The exhibition presents a diverse range of materials and regional styles—from the intricately painted bark paintings of Arnhem Land, to the pukumani grave poles of the Tiwi Islands, and the boldly colored abstract paintings of the Western Desert.

Lorraine Babui, Australian (Tiwi, Tiwi Islands), born 1951, Untitled, n.d., natural ochres and pigments on canvas, h. 46 in.; w. 20 in., gift of the Lam Family, © artist, courtesy of Tiwi Designs, photography by Peggy Tenison