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Aboriginal art commissioned for Paris museum

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 December 2004

ELEANOR HALL: A group of Aboriginal artists has been chosen to create an artwork to cover the walls and ceilings of a major new museum in Paris.

The Musee du quai Branly is being built on the banks of the Seine to house a collection of 300,000 pieces of indigenous art and artefacts from around the world.

The work by the eight Australian artists is the only public art being commissioned for the project.

Peta Donald caught up with some of those involved in Sydney this morning.

PETA DONALD: On the banks of the Seine, not far from the Eiffel Tower, is the four hectare site where the new museum, France's major cultural project of the decade, will be built, designed by the internationally renowned French architect Jean Nouvel.

One of his Australian project managers is the Sydney architect, Peter Lonergan.

PETER LONERGAN: The museum itself is a huge 40,000 square metre building that houses the collection from two existing museums in Paris ? the Museum of Man and the Museum of Africa and Oceanic Arts.

PETA DONALD: What will it look like, the art that's incorporated into the fabric of the building? How will that work?

PETER LONERMAN: The idea, I suppose, is to make this public work in the form of frescoes and public decorations for buildings, which is a, you know, traditionally a European manner of representing or decorating public buildings.

PETA DONALD: A bit like the Sistine Chapel, perhaps?

PETER LONERMAN: In some ways, yeah, but the work is on both the outside and the inside of the building, and there's about ? I think by the time we're finished probably about 1,500 square metres of surface, either walls or windows or ceilings of the building will be covered with the work of the eight Aboriginal artists.

PETA DONALD: The eight Aboriginal artists have been by the Australia Council from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. They're in Sydney today to plan the way ahead.

GULUMBU YUNUPINGU: Gulumbu Yunupingu from Yirrkala.

PETA DONALD: What are you going to paint on that museum?

GULUMBU YUNUPINGU: I'm going to paint a star about the universe, looking at stars to paint to be at the museum, and this is giving gifts to Paris from? this is from my heart and my hands, and showing the people everywhere.

JUDY WATSON: I'm Judy Watson. I'm an artist. My mother's country is north-west Queensland, Waanyi language group, and my dad's is Scottish English Australian. I'm based in Brisbane at the moment, and I'm one of the eight indigenous artists who'll be involved in the project.

PETA DONALD: How do you feel about being involved in such a project?

JUDY WATSON: Very, very excited and happy, and also I feel very privileged.

PETA DONALD: What do you hope that people from around the world will take from this project and from your work when they go to the museum in Paris to have a look at this work?

JUDY WATSON: Because of the design of the building, it's literally going to seep out from the walls of the building and be reflected in the streets of Paris, and our work will emanate and Aboriginal culture is so strong and so beautiful within this space that people will get that through their skin. And they'll carry that with them through the streets of Paris and whoever comes to visit or even see the work will have a sense of that. They'll have our country within their skin.

ELEANOR HALL: And congratulations to them. That's Brisbane artist, Judy Watson, speaking to Peta Donald in Sydney this morning.

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