Discover how Indigenous Australian artists are inspired by our native wildlife in Menagerie – a vibrant exhibition of animal sculptures and paintings.

Opening 22 December 2012 (until 2 March 2014), this innovative exhibition features 68 contemporary animal sculptures, alongside framed works by award-winning artist Danie Mellor and 14 traditional bark paintings from the Museum’s collections.

33 established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, drawn from every Australian state and territory, produced the outstanding sculptural works using wood, fibre, metal and ceramic materials.

Exhibition Project Manager, Fran Dorey, said the works exemplify the richness and breadth of contemporary Indigenous art, craft and design in Australia.

Menagerie includes an array of diverse works including fibre works by Yvonne Koolmatrie from South Australia; ceramics by Judith Inkamala from the Northern Territory; wood carving by Craig Koomeeta from Queensland; mixed media assemblages by Canberra-based Danie Mellor and Tasmanian artist Vicki West; and, work cast in bronze and aluminium by Dennis Nona from the Torres Strait Islands,’ she said.

Indigenous Project Officer, Charlotte Galleguillos, encouraged visitors to look beyond the sculptures to understand their true meaning.

‘These pieces are amazing artworks. But, their value extends beyond ‘art’ – they are a priceless record of our heritage. Despite the variety of form and style, they are united in their purpose – at their centre lies a cultural message and the spiritual world, the Dreaming,’ she said.

The sculptures are some of the Museum’s most recent collection acquisitions. A vital part of the contemporary heritage of Indigenous Australians, most were created for a temporary and touring exhibition co-developed by the Australian Museum and Object: Australian Design Centre in 2009.

Having toured the country over the past three years, the works are now on show in their entirety for the very first time and the Museum is celebrating their return to their new permanent home.

The acquisition of the sculptures was made possible by a grant from the Australian Museum Foundation and the bequest of Patricia M Porritt, which is administered by the Foundation.

Menagerie is the first exhibition to feature in the Museum’s newly redeveloped Indigenous Australians gallery. The gallery – including a new Indigenous Learning Hub – will have an official opening in early 2013.

Menagerie is FREE with general Museum entry.