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65,000 Years: A Short History of Australian Art

Thames & Hudson

65,000 Years: A Short History of Australian Art


A landmark publication on the history of Indigenous Australian art – this courageous and comprehensive exploration calls us to bear witness to 65,000 years of continuous culture, Indigenous knowledge and powerful art.

65,000 Years: A Short History of Australian Art stares into the dark heart of Australia’s brutal colonial history and offers new insights into the first art of this country.

Long before Britain’s invasion of Australia in 1788, First Peoples’ cultural and design traditions flourished for thousands of generations. Their art shaped the continent as we know it today and the societies that thrived here; but these continuing artistic practices and new art forms were disregarded by the settlers, and not considered to be ‘fine art’ until the late 1980s.

In this publication, twenty-five writers urge us to reconsider the art history that is unique to the Australian continent and to acknowledge its rise to prominence in modern times. Featuring new writing by leading thinkers across generations and disciplines, it celebrates Indigenous Australian art across media, time and language groups.

Today Indigenous art and artists are at the forefront of contemporary art practice. In very real and tangible ways, this publication reveals the artistic brilliance of Australia’s First Peoples and stands as a testament to their resilience.

This book is published in association with a major exhibition at the University of Melbourne’s revitalised Potter Museum of Art, opening in 2025. Also titled 65,000 Years: A Short History of Australian Art, the exhibition, curated by Professor Marcia Langton AO, Ms Judith Ryan AM and Ms Shanysa McConville, features over 400 artworks that celebrate the longevity and brilliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art despite a difficult history of colonialism and scientific racism.

About the authors

Professor Marcia Langton AO, anthropologist, geographer, academic and public intellectual, is a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of Queensland. Since 2000 she has been Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, where she is Associate Provost.

Ms Judith Ryan AM, an art historian, is Senior Curator, Art Museums at the University of Melbourne and was previously Senior Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria where she played a key role in the development and scholarly interpretation of a nationally important public collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Marcia Langton, Judith Ryan
Published September 2024
230 mm x 300 cm
ISBN 9781760764210

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