Aboriginal artist Richard Bell's Embassy comes to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall
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Aboriginal artist Richard Bell's Embassy comes to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall
Richard Bell, You Can Go Now, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. Image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia © The artist, Photograph Anna Kučera.

SYDNEY.- Since May 20th and continuing to 18 June 2023, Aboriginal artist and activist Richard Bell’s Embassy is exhibiting his work at Tate Modern’s prestigious Turbine Hall in London. Bell’s powerful travelling artwork Embassy, a Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Tate joint acquisition, provides a public space for activism and a program with in-conversation events with artist Richard Bell, for listening and telling stories of resistance, survival, displacement and oppression.

Born in 1953, Richard Bell is of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang people. He is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists working across painting, performance, video and installation. A renowned activist, artist and political commentator, Bell uses humour, satire and word play to address issues around representation, place, identity politics, and the perceptions of Aboriginal art within a postcolonial history and framework.

Housed in a tent surrounded by protest signs, Embassy is a space for activism and dialogue in support of Aboriginal land rights in Australia. The tent Embassy seeks to facilitate a space for cultural sharing, political discourse, and solidarity with struggles around the world.

Bell’s Embassy is inspired by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which was erected in 1972 outside Canberra’s Old Parliament House by a group of four Aboriginal activists to protest against the government’s denial of land rights and the substandard living conditions of Aboriginal people.

Embassy was first shown in Melbourne in 2013, and has now been exhibited in New York, Moscow, Venice, Jerusalem, Jakarta, Perth, Sydney at MCA Australia, Documenta Fifteen in Kassel and most recently at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India. In 2017, Richard Bell’s Embassy was co-acquired by the MCA Australia and Tate as part of the ground-breaking International Joint Acquisition Program, made possible through a $2.75 million corporate gift from the Qantas Foundation in 2015.

Alongside Embassy, Bell will present across the Turbine Hall Bridge a major work titled ‘Pay the Rent (UK)’. This artwork is a digital ticker of the artist’s calculation of the payment owed by the British Government to Indigenous Australians for use of the country between 1788 and 1901, a number which, with interest included, keeps climbing.

Keith Munro, Director First Nations, Art and Cultures at MCA Australia said: “Richard Bell’s Embassy provides an important space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to share their experiences and continued struggle for Aboriginal rights and self-determination in Australia. Grounded in the legacy of the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy, this exhibit at Tate Modern continues an ongoing dialogue involving thought-leaders, artists and changemakers.”

Suzanne Cotter, Director Museum of Contemporary Art Australia said: “The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Tate International Joint Acquisition Program partnership continues to play a significant role in promoting contemporary Australian art and Australian artists to international audiences. Richard Bell is one of Australia's most eloquent artistic voices whose gently humorous and always incisive work speaks profoundly to our contemporary world. We are delighted visitors to Tate Modern can engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on history, art and culture.”

Embassy at Tate Modern will be activated through a series of public events with Richard Bell in conversation with guest speakers and audience participants. The opening weekend will include speakers Euahlayi Elder and activist Ghillar Michael Anderson one of the four founding Aboriginal activists who established the original tent Embassy, Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, Alan Michelson and Sylvia McAdam. Together these speakers will explore questions of social justice, land rights, sovereignty, and coalition building through a powerful critique of the legacy of European invasion and colonialism.

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