Installation view, Desert Painters of Australia. Image courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

Free admission (all visitors, all hours)

Through July 3, Gagosian Gallery is presenting an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian paintings from two significant American collections. Spanning three generations, the exhibition includes works by leading painters from the Central and Western Desert regions. Indigenous people have lived in the remote Australian deserts for many thousands of years. In the late 1960s, the Australian government moved several communities from the Western Desert region—primarily Pintupi, Luritja, Warlpiri, and Arrernte peoples—to the Papunya settlement, about 150 miles south of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. This forced displacement inadvertently created a new hub for Indigenous Australian art where members of the community were encouraged to paint first murals, then works on canvas, using the patterns of sand art and ceremonial body decoration. This initiative set in motion the visual transposition of ancient stories and traditions into paint on canvas, giving the Papunya Tula artists an opportunity to reexamine the imagery and present their culture to outsiders through transcendental visual codes. Informed by a lifetime of learning, Desert Painters of Australiarepresents an invaluable archive of Indigenous knowledge.