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In August 1983, the Australian Museum purchased a collection of 94 paintings known as the 'Papunya Permanent Collection'.
Papunya is an Aboriginal settlement about 240 km north west of Alice Springs. The Warlpiri, Pintubi, Anmatyerre, Arrente and Luritja people who live at Papunya come from several areas of central Australia.
In early 1971, the late Geoff Bardon took up the post of art teacher at Papunya. In a remarkably short time he encouraged traditional artists to develop a new and distinctive art form now known as 'Western Desert Art' that today has worldwide recognition. The Papunya Permanent Collection consists of works from the early days of this movement, and is a vitally important archive of the transition from works on bits of scrap board to the large canvases of today.
In 1976, the community sent the paintings to the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council for safekeeping. As the Board was unable to store the paintings adequately, the artists decided to place the collection where it would be looked after for future generations to see and learn about their culture. They offered the collection to the Australian Museum, which agreed to keep the paintings together as a research and reference collection documenting the early stages of the Western Desert Art movement.