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The arts of Africa, Oceania and native America famously inspired twentieth-century modernist artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Ernst. The politics of such stimulus, however, have long been highly contentious: was this a cross-cultural discovery to be celebrated, or just one more example of Western colonial appropriation?
This revelatory book explores cross-cultural art through the lens of settler societies such as Australia and New Zealand, where Europeans made new nations, displacing and outnumbering but never eclipsing native peoples. In this dynamic of dispossession and resistance, visual art has loomed large. Settler artists and designers drew upon Indigenous motifs and styles in their search for distinctive identities. Yet powerful Indigenous art traditions have asserted the presence of First Nations peoples and their claims to place, history and sovereignty. Cultural exchange has been a two-way process, and an unpredictable one: contemporary Indigenous art draws on global contemporary practice, but moves beyond a bland affirmation of hybrid identities to insist on the enduring values and attachment to place of Indigenous peoples.
Tyler Brûlé is Editorial director and chairman of Monocle. Andrew Tuck is the magazine’s Editor in Chief. Joe Pickard is Head of book publishing.