Who are the indigenous artists that actor Steve Martin collects?

Tjapaltjarri, Napangati, Carlene West, Nakamarra and Bill Whiskey are some of the great names in contemporary indigenous Australian art that make up Martin's collection

Steve Martin
Steve Martin

Actor and comedian Steve Martin has long had a passion for collect works of art🇧🇷 In the apartment he shares with his wife, Anne Stringfield, there are paintings by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney, and a host of great American moderns, including Edward Hopper. More recently, however, he has shifted his focus to works made from the 1970s onwards by contemporary Indigenous Australian artists. Currently, this collection comprises around 100 pieces.

It is very necessary for personalities like Steve Martin to use their privilege and visibility to boost the careers of great artists who are often on the fringes of the circuit. Martin has exhibited his collection at the Gagosian in New York and Beverly Hills, and at the National Arts Club, also in New York. But who are these artists that piqued the actor's interest? Check out some highlights of the artists that make up the collection here:

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri is the artist who painted, at the age of 88, the first canvas in Martin's collection. He uses dots and lines to create dizzying compositions that express his spiritual relationship and ancestry's connection to the Western Australian landscape. His works are internationally acclaimed and have already been shown in major exhibitions such as Documenta, in 2012. 

Yukultji Napangati, like Tjapaltjarri, was part of the so-called Pintupi Nine or “first contact group” – an indigenous group that roamed the desert living a traditional existence and only came into contact with Australian society in 1984. Tjapaltjarri's sacred symbols are inspired by memories of her semi-nomadic upbringing. Napangati's production is inspired by ancestral stories passed down through generations. The result is revealed in repetitive strokes of acrylic paint on large linen canvases composed of optical illusions that represent phenomena found in nature.

Carlene West
Tjitjiti, 2015, Carlene West

Carlene West was born among the sand hills in the far west of Tjitjiti, a vast salt lake in the Spinifex Lands – the Spinifex people are an Australian Aboriginal people whose lands stretch across the Great Victoria Desert and the Nullarbor Plain. In 1959, West and his family left the desert to escape the British government's nuclear tests in Maralinga, moving to a mission in Cundeelee.

Although the Spinifex people have been painting forever, West was the first to embrace the brush, starting to paint in 1997. Today her works are acclaimed and have been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia, the British Museum and by collectors around the world. Her images are dominated by bold voids painted in black and red background palettes, which serve as powerful compositional anchors for her narratives.

Doreen Reid Nakamarra it has already been awarded the Telstra Prize and is now part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was a leading artist and spokesperson for the Papunya Tula Artists' Cooperative, owned and operated by the Aboriginal people of Australia's Western Desert.

His personal style re-figures the Australian landscape and features the Marrapinti Rock Hole – a vital water source near the Pollock Hills in Western Australia. The work Marrapinti, for example, portrays a group of ancestral women traveling to the east of the site. Horizontal lines crisscross the canvas, evoking the desert plains, while a finely executed pattern of vertical strokes records the women's movement across the sandy landscape.


Doreen Reid Nakamarra
Woman Dreaming, SD, Doreen Reid Nakamarra

Born in Pirupa, Alka Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri was known as a powerful gankari or traditional healer and guardian of sacred knowledge. He began painting towards the end of his life, aged 84, so he completed a relatively small number of paintings. Among his poetic interests were the holes in the rocks, hills and rocky outcrops throughout his country, so that he mapped the places that occupied his memories.

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