For Tallarook’s Adam Knight, a long-held dream has finally come true.
And that dream is the newly built Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, the largest of its kind in the country.
The gallery, which is tucked beneath the Nagambie winery’s ‘witch’s hat’ tower, is home to works from more than 15 different art centres and communities through Australia, including the Strathbogie country’s Taungurung Clan.
A trip down an elevator takes visitors into what can only be described as another world — a space in which some of the finest works of indigenous artists past and present are exhibited.
Mr Knight said he hoped the gallery would draw new people to the region but, more importantly, that it also served as a celebration of indigenous art, something he believed was an unfortunately rare commodity in Australia.
‘‘We are one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have a dedicated gallery to our indigenous population, which I find embarrassing, considering we have the most exciting indigenous art movement in the history of the world,’’ he said.
‘‘This space is arguably bigger than what’s available at the National Gallery of Victoria, probably bigger than what’s at the NGNSW.
‘‘Also the works are as good as anything you would see at those national collections. So once people come to see this space they are often gobsmacked.
‘‘You go into an Aboriginal art gallery in the city and most of them are small, more decorative works rather than collectable works but what we have here is serious investment in high quality art.’’
Some of the prominent artists whose work is in the gallery include Gabriella Possum Nungurrayi, Yannima Tommy Watson, Witjiti George, George Hairbrush Tjungurrayi and Tjungkara Ken.
One of the most striking pieces in the galley is Ms Nungurrayi’s Grandmother’s Country, a 4.8m by 2.4m work depicting the abundance of natural resources in a region near Napperby, in the Northern Territory.
Another is the Message Stick Vehicle — a Land Rover which was originally used as an ambulance by the Australian army in the Vietnam War before being painted by 200 Aboriginal artists.
A permanent fixture in the gallery, the Message Stick Vehicle clocked up 1.43millionkm when it was driven around Australia through almost every major Aboriginal community, with each one painting a message to the next on the exterior of the truck.
And despite this epic journey, Mr Knight said the Land Rover still drives ‘‘beautifully’’ (and he knows that because he drove it into the gallery himself).
He said the gallery was the product of years of discussions between him and Gerry Ryan, a Melbourne-based businessman who owns Mitchelton winery.
Originally slated for the winery’s car park area, Mr Knight said one day the pair took a look downstairs and changed plans.
‘‘We just agreed it was perfect,’’ he said.
‘‘It couldn’t be better — the scale of the location, the atmosphere in the actual room, and the way we’re able to present some of the biggest works in Australia.
‘‘Since it’s been open, we’re getting between 60 and 100 people in a day, as well as selling paintings. And we’re planning on expanding again with a space that would have more affordable works, souvenirs, some beautiful books on Indigenous art, and local products. So it’s going to develop even further.’’
The Mitchelton Gallery of Aboriginal Art, open on weekends and public holidays from 10am to 4pm, is at 470 Mitchellstown Rd, Nagambie.
For more information, email Adam Knight at [email protected] com.au or phone 57362288.