Ngukurr Artists: A history of refusing the rules

Salon des Refusés, August, I was back in Darwin to review the 2022 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA). Away from the main event, where the competing artworks—paintings, weavings, video, sculptures—awaited the judges’ announcement in the cool, dimly-lit gallery at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), are the rejected artworks. Exhibited in the annual Salon des Refusés, these artworks hang on the walls of Gallery 5 in a run-down pop-up space perforated by the sun’s light, which takes the works—largely from up north, mostly the NT—a step closer to the conditions of their production: nearer to what the artists and their kin must see as the art is being made. Here are the rejects, the wayward, the feral, the errant—those artworks that have strayed too far beyond the selection panel’s idea of ‘tasteful’ or ‘good’ depending on their own sensibilities; art works and artists gone walkabout from the consecrated circuits of the artworld. Among this cut are the Ngukurr artists.

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