In the early 1970s, a young South Australian accountant and his wife moved to Alice Springs for a change of scenery and a new job. What began as a youthful adventure led to their being recognised decades later as seminal gallerists and collectors of Aboriginal art.
Ros and the late Graeme Marshall’s commitment to Aboriginal culture, art and people was sparked during Graeme’s visits to remote communities around Alice Springs on accounting business. There, he came to know the men of Papunya Tula. The more he came to know them and their culture, the more convinced he became of the tremendous importance of the art movement that was taking hold in the desert regions.
Graeme had an instinctive “eye” and profound understanding of value. He bought a number of 'unwanted' Papunya boards after being told they were going to be destroyed because they were considered unsaleable. Many of these early boards were later acquired by a then-fledgling east coast gallery that became a significant force in the Aboriginal art landscape; Graeme and Ros gifted other boards to public institutions.
Graeme grew to dislike accounting and dreamt of opening an Aboriginal art gallery that would serve the interests of the artists and their communities. Graeme and Ros finally realised that dream with the opening of Marshall Arts in Adelaide in 2001. From that moment, they worked tirelessly to promote the work of artists from across Australia. Most notably, they were early proponents of the APY/NPY Lands art centres that started to emerge in the early 2000s: Papulankutja, Irrunytju (until 2006), Ninuku, Tjungu Palya, Tjala Arts, Ernabella, Kaltjiti Arts, Warakurna Artists, Kayili Artists, Spinifex Art Projects.
Over the years, Graeme and Ros worked with many public institutions, as well as major collectors in Australia and overseas, and funded local and overseas exhibitions. They have also been major benefactors to public institutions, schools and charitable organisations.
Galerie Zadra is proud to present a selection of works from the Marshall Collection that represents a snapshot of art by predominantly senior artists from across Australia, from 1997-2009. The majority of artists were born in the bush and lived semi-nomadic lives. Many are now deceased or no longer paint due to age-related illnesses. Graeme always referred deferentially to these old people as “cultural seedpods”.
Graeme and Ros shared a love of “old people’s painting”, which is often stylistically defined by its raw, immediate brushwork and eschewing of decorative elements. These paintings most closely resemble ceremonial sand and body painting. Paint drips and smudges are hallmarks of these works because the artists value the sacred content of the painting above the aesthetic finish.
This collection forms an important marker within Aboriginal art as the paintings map the shift from early raw styles, to the current, more refined aesthetic. For serious collectors, these works represent significant early examples from many of the leading Aboriginal art centres.