Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art
Return to collections
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have existed on the continent of Australia for tens of thousands of years. Their art and traditions are among the oldest and richest in human history.
The designs, patterns and stories were taught to Indigenous Australians by the Ancestors and are reinforced and replicated through ritual, dance, song, body painting, rock engravings and paintings, and on domestic and ritual objects. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is as alive today as it was thousands of years ago. As in the ancient past, the art is inseparable from everyday life.
The art of contemporary Indigenous Australians takes many forms. Despite significant change and diversity, the art retains an underlying unity of inspiration—the land and the peoples’ relationships with it. It is simultaneously connected to the past and engaged with the present, engaging with the world through actions which are lively, positive, political, social and creative.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection at the National Gallery of Australia comprises over 7500 works and is the largest in the world. These new gallery spaces allow much more of the collection to be seen with each one specifically designed for a different geographic region or aspect of Indigenous art and, where possible, paintings and sculptures are illuminated overhead by natural daylight, akin to the light in which the works were created.
This dedicated display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art highlights the diversity, richness and excellence of the collection.