Karel Kupka and the Master Painters of Arnhem Land

Past Event: 4 November 2013

Painting: Milingimbi Man, 1956, by Karel Kupka
Milingimbi Man, 1956, by Karel Kupka
Source: Karel Kupka collection, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

The biography of a bark painting collection.

Join Jessica De Largy Healy, Head Research from The Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

Karel Kupka was a French painter, legal scholar and anthropologist of Czech origin, who between 1956 and 1963 collected an exceptional body of some 600 works by 60 Arnhem Land painters that are now dispersed between three countries (France, Switzerland and Australia. Between continuity and innovation, the history of paintings from this period (considered a "golden age" of bark painting) illustrates the complex process of transposition of a sacred ritual heritage in the public domain of the art market.

The inclusion of knowledge gathered with the descendants of the Yolngu artists whose works are represented in the collection provides unforeseen insights on this material and demonstrates the ways in which the reproduction and circulation of these images partake in ongoing knowledge politics in the Indigenous communities.

Dr Jessica De Largy Healy is a French-Australian anthropologist who works in the Research and Higher Education Department of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. After completing a PhD on digital archiving practices in north-east Arnhem Land, she undertook research on Australian material collections in European museums and archives.


Dr Jessica De Largy Healy, Chargée de la Recherche (Head Research), Musée du Quai Branly, Paris