BEYOND THE TIMOR SEA: ASIAN ARTWORKS IN THE CHARLES DARWIN UNIVERSITY ART COLLECTION – TAASA Review December 2020
Kellie Joswig S itting at the tropical nexus between Southeast Asia and the rest of Australia, Charles Darwin University (CDU) in Darwin has, for almost three decades, strived for meaningful scholarly and intercultural engagement with its immediate Southeast Asian neighbours. Memoranda of Understanding were first signed in 1991 with universities in Indonesia and Timor-Leste that continue today, and numerous education and research partnerships also exist with universities and other institutions in the region.
As with many universities in Australia, much of CDU’s current strategic planning is underpinned by efforts to attract the burgeoning numbers of prospective tertiary students from China and the Indian subcontinent. Before 2015, however, these longstanding links and the University’s unique geographic location had not been adequately reflected in its Art Collection and only a small number of works by Asian artists were acquired in the first 35 years since it was formally established in 1980.
This lacuna can be attributed, in part, to early acquisition policies that were oriented to domestic cultural production, and that stipulated a collecting focus on contemporary Australian art – initially, non- Indigenous in the belief that duplication of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory’s (MAGNT) significant collection of Aboriginal art should be avoided (McLean 1999: 9). The Art Collection was first developed as a teaching resource of primarily works on paper for the University’s Art School...