IN THE FRAME

Songlines XVII, The Artists of the Fitzroy Crossing
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The Independent Culture
Aboriginal art is 27 years old at the end of this year, or something like 40,000 depending on how you see it. "The last great movement of the 20th century", as the Australian critic Robert Hughes put it, the youngest and oldest in the history of art. It "began" at the end of 1971 when a teacher in one of Australia's Aboriginal camps encouraged students to write down their stories (previously passed through generations as a purely oral tradition) in the shapes and symbols traditionally used for body painting and for drawings in the sand. When the teacher sold some of these "paintings", the idea spread and soon became a lucrative industry. I've always found it difficult to know what to make of this. Money has so clearly been the guiding principle from the start, yet how does that differ from so much that goes on in the world of art? Fortunately, not all dealers in Aboriginal art are out for a quick buck. Sure, a number have come and gone and fingers have been burnt, but some belong to the Robert Hughes school, treating it as a serious movement, tracking its development, sifting for quality and encouraging us to understand that Black Australia is a world of different peoples and cultures. To this end, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery, the first and finest gallery in the UK to deal in this sort of thing, is showing its 17th "Songlines" exhibition - The Artists of the Fitzroy Crossing, marking the gallery's 10th anniversary.

Richard Ingleby

Rebecca Hossack Gallery, 35 Windmill Street, London W1 (0171-436 4899) to 5 Sept

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