In Arts + Entertainment

Find Australia’s Largest Aboriginal Artwork Collection Inside A Winery

Collectors of indigenous art take note; if you’re keen to experience one of Australia’s best and largest collections, it won’t require the flight to Alice Springs or Darwin that you might expect. Instead, you’ll find the collection roughly 90 minutes from Melbourne in a newly-opened gallery within the Mitchelton Estate Winery in Nagambie, Victoria.

The collection sits at the basement level of Mitchelton Estate’s iconic tower curated by Aboriginal Art Specialist and consultant, Adam Knight. Adam’s conducted over 100 national and international exhibitions since the 90s, building the largest private collection in Australia. Now, weekend visitors to Mitchelton Estate can enjoy it free of charge.

Knight, who’s also President of the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia, says it’s a collection nearly three decades in the making, and one the country desperately needed.

“Over my 27 years in the Aboriginal Art space, I have attempted to secure some of the most significant artworks that are being produced,” he says.

“The scale of the gallery at Mitchelton allows me to showcase these works in an outstanding environment, which compliments the excellence demonstrated of the work.”

“In Victoria and generally throughout Australia there is limited capacity to view outstanding Aboriginal Art,” says Knight, adding that together with Gerry Ryan, owner of Mitchelton they were able to take the opportunity to showcase the artwork of Australia’s first people, showcasing them to the thousands of visitors that frequent the Nagambie region each year.

“The Mitchelton Gallery is located in Taungurung Country, a clan whose ancestors and their descendants occupied the area between the upper reaches of the Goulburn River and its tributaries north of the Dividing Range. We acknowledge that they have been custodians for many centuries, and continue to perform age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal. We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of this region.”

Visitors can expect to find a wide variety of pieces representative of more than 15 different art centres and communities throughout Australia, including the local Taungurung Clan.

“The gallery features some of the largest works produced by Australia’s most revered Indigenous artists including Yannima Tommy Watson, Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi, George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi, Witjiti George and Tjungkara Ken,” says Knight.

One particularly unique piece guests might be surprised to find is The Message Stick Vehicle. Formerly an off-road ambulance, the 1961 Land Rover from the Vietnam war has been adorned with incredible paintings from more than 200 Aboriginal Artists across Australia.

“A 50,000-year-old Aboriginal tradition, a message stick was a totem passed from tribe to tribe by young warriors as safe passage onto their lands. Message sticks were painted with overlays of artwork similar to a cave painting,” says Knight. “On its journey across Australia, the Message Stick Vehicle was decorated by artists from clans across the country, including handprints of dozens of artists, indigenous elders and celebrities such as, Hugo Weaving, Nelson Mandela and Former Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam.”

Knight says he does have a favourite piece within the gallery.

“My Favorite piece is Warnka Tjukurpa by Yannima Tommy Watson who sadly passed away in 2017. It is one of the largest works ever created by Tommy, demonstrating his divine use of dots and outstanding use of colour. The grand scale of this piece (500cm x 244cm) allows the viewer to sense the immense space and the artist’s deep understanding of country that can be felt in all of Tommy’s ‘My Country’ paintings.”

The new gallery space is just one part of a spectacular expansion of the Mitchelton Estate Winery. In December last year, the wine estate also opened a $16 million luxury property, Mitchelton Hotel. Designed by internationally renowned architecture and interior design firm Hecker Guthrie, the hotel, comprises of 58 rooms (four of which are suites), a spa and an infinity pool.

The earthy tone rooms were designed to bare a relationship with its countryside setting and in particular, the horse studs around Nagambie. Inside the luxury hotel you’ll find several equine inspired artworks and specifically commissioned pieces by Melbourne photographer Trevor Mein. It’s an ideal escape for wine and art-lovers with the cellar door as well as the family owned Ministry of Chocolate also located on site.

There’s a day spa as well as a cellar door where guests can sample winemaker Travis Clydesdale’s finest tipples. The onsite restaurant Muse showcases the best of local produce with executive chef Jess Hayes at the helm so it’s well worth making a weekend of it.

The Mitchelton Gallery is open every weekend from 11 am to 4 pm and is free to visit, it’s also available by appointment for guests of the hotel and private tours with Knight can also be pre-booked.

Published 03 May, 2018