Podcast: Luke Scholes on curating, caring and collaborating

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When Luke Scholes talks about being a curator, he turns toward the origins of his role: he discusses how curating means to be ‘a carer of things’. For Scholes, this largely involves caring for art collections, through his role as Curator of Aboriginal Art at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

In this podcast Scholes unpacks his curatorial work, revealing how his position falls across three broad areas: facilitating the annual National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards, curating exhibitions, and maintaining and developing MAGNT’s Aboriginal art collection. It’s this third responsibility that Scholes particularly delves into. “It’s not just about acquiring more examples, it’s about acquiring the right examples,” he explains. “What a curator should seek to do is develop a really strong and historical record of art movements.”

While Scholes isn’t Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the foundation of his curatorial work consists of collaborating with, and learning from, Indigenous people. This was particularly apparent with MAGNT’s recent exhibition Tjungunutja: from having come together, where Scholes co-curated a display of early Papunya paintings with five Aboriginal custodians and artists.

With a background working across Aboriginal art centres and larger non-Indigenous arts institutions, Scholes is keenly aware of the ethical responsibilities of curating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art objects.

As he sums up, “It’s just about respect and realising that as a white fella working in this space I don’t, and never will, know everything, and I’ve got to rely on the generosity of the people I work with to show me the right way to go about working.”

In the final moments of the podcast conversation, Scholes further reflects on the changes he’s seen across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art during his career. “It’s been a wonderful evolution over these last fifteen years and I think we’re experiencing this incredible artistic and cultural renaissance at the moment where you have contemporary artists engaging with new materials, engaging with new ideas, engaging with new media,” he says. “But also we have artists who are really looking toward their cultural roots and age-old artistic traditions of sculptures and three-dimensional works, and they’re regenerating and transforming those artworks in new and really exciting ways.”

This podcast has been produced in partnership with the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in recognition of the annual National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.

Tiarney Miekus