Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection

Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection introduces American audiences to the spectacular efflorescence of Indigenous Australian painting and sculpture that has occurred since the 1970s.

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Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
June 23–October 15, 2017
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
January 26–April 22, 2018
Blanton Museum of Art, UT, Austin, TX
June 3–September 9, 2018
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, BC, Canada
October 5, 2018–January 28, 2019

Number of works: 50
Minimum space required: 4,500–5,000 square feet
Venue Presentation Period: 12 weeks
Kirstin Purtich
212.988.7700 x 226


Two Australian and two American curators each contribute a distinct perspective on this collection of over one hundred artworks that span the Australian continent and the varying approaches to art pursued by diverse Aboriginal communities. Acrylic paintings from the desert, bark canvases from the north, and ochre-painted canvases from the west are joined by new uses of fiber, clay, and photography. Complementing the fully illustrated essays and catalogue entries are a visual glossary, which offers glimpses of the real-life creatures and landscapes that helped inspire the artworks, and a glossary of terms defining some of the essential concepts of Aboriginal culture. Ancestral Modern is dedicated to a vanguard effort by artists who are showing the world another way to experience not only their own country and worldviews but nature itself, wherever it is encountered.

Authors: Pamela McClusky, Wally Caruana, Lisa Graziose Corrin, Stephen Gilchrist
Publishers: Seattle Art Museum, Yale University Press (2012)
Dimensions: 11 ¼ x 10 ½ x 1 in.
Format: Hardcover, 176 pp
ISBN: 978-0300180039


Pamela McClusky is Curator of Art of Africa and Oceania at the Seattle Art Museum, where she helped to establish the African and Oceanic Art Department and the museum’s permanent galleries for African and Australian Aboriginal art.


This exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Seattle Art Museum.

It was made possible by the generosity of Mrs. Donald M. Cox, the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.