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Leading Australian artist unveils large scale rooftop installation for major museum in Paris
Lena Nyadbi Daryiwul Lirlmum (Baramundi Scales), Natural ochre and charcoal on linen 2012. Photo: National Gallery of Australia 2013.

CANBERRA.- The critically acclaimed musée du quai Branly in Paris will soon be home to a dynamic new installation by leading Aboriginal Australian artist Lena Nyadbi. At a special ceremony in Canberra today, Australia will celebrate a major new commission specifically designed for the Paris museum’s rooftop. At almost 700 square metres, the large scale art installation has been designed to be viewed from the Eiffel Tower and by Google Earth users, making it one of the largest artworks made by an Australian artist and an important new addition to the world renowned museum dedicated to the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

One of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Lena Nyadbi is a Gija woman of Nyawurru skin. Born around 1936 in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Nyadbi is best known for her rich, spare aesthetic. After a decade under apprenticeship to leading Kimberley master artists, Nyadbi began painting in 1998. Her paint is hand-made using natural ochre and charcoal from Gija country. This literal inseparability from country is implicit in the power of her artwork.

In a unique partnership between the Australia Council, the musée du quai Branly, and the Harold Mitchell Foundation, the artist was last year commissioned to create a new site-specific installation for the museum’s rooftop terrace. To be unveiled in Paris on 6 June 2013, the outdoor work is titled Dayiwul Lirlmim (Barramundi Scales). Filling the 700 square metres rooftop, the giant rendering is an adaptation of a new black and white painting by the artist. The original artwork will also go on display at the Paris Museum. Both works have been inspired by Nyadbi’s mother’s land in Dayiwul Country in Western Australia.

Located on the left Bank in the heart of Paris, the musée du quai Branly is one of France’s national museums and is a world leading centre for global cultures and arts. The musée collection comprises more than 300,000 works of art, of which 33 000 are from Oceania. Today the musée collection features 1423 Aboriginal works of art including weapons, boomerangs, tools and sculptures. The installation will be viewed by the seven million people who visit the Eiffel Tower every year and by Google Earth users.

“This powerful new work by Lena Nyadbi is an historic opportunity to highlight and promote Indigenous Australian art and cultures to a global audience in Paris,” said Australia Council Chair Mr Rupert Myer AM. “It is also an opportunity to continue to develop the relationship between the Australia Council, Australian galleries and museums and the musée du quai Branly. Importantly, this commission builds on the success of a project in 2006 with the musée which featured work by eight artists, including Lena Nyadbi on the ceilings and facade of the museum which attracted the attention of visitors from around the world.”

Harold Mitchell AC, Chairman of the Harold Mitchell Foundation said, “Through the Harold Mitchell Foundation we seek to have a transformational impact with the projects we fund. Presented in the heart of European civilisation this project both raises the profile of Indigenous art and expands the ways we think about the possibilities of Aboriginal art in a global context”

“We are very excited to present work of this magnitude by an important contemporary Australian Aboriginal artist,” said Stéphane Martin, President of the musée du quai Branly who approached Australia Council in 2011 with the proposal for a large scale work at the museum. Since 2011, numerous discussions and visits with the artist at her home in Western Australia have resulted in the extraordinary artwork Dayiwul Lirlmim. “The scale and prominence of this project is a reflection of the growing interest in contemporary Aboriginal Australian art among museum visitors across Europe and internationally,” said Mr Martin.

“Lena Nyadbi’s remarkable paintings at once embody a particular place and culture and speak many languages” said Ms Lee-Ann Buckskin Chair of the Australia Council Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board. “Translated from a canvas an architectural scaled sculptural form, Nyadbi’s commission highlights the dynamism of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts among the Indigenous cultures of the world”.

The Paris installation will coincide with a major new exhibition of Kimberley artists from the Warmun Art Centre at the Australian Embassy in Paris, which will open on 6 June 2013.

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