Patrick Olodoodi Tjungurrayi Untitled (Two goanna ancestors) 1999. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Mollie Gowing Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Aboriginal Art 2000. © Patrick Olodoodi Tjungurrayi. Licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is pleased to present The Purple House, a new exhibition celebrating leading Pintupi artists and their enduring legacy.

The exhibition brings together a group of eight historically significant works by Pintupi artists to acknowledge the 21-year anniversary of the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal, which was held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2000 and raised more than $1 million through the auction of paintings by Papunya Tula artists.

Presented alongside the major exhibition Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius in 2000, the Art Gallery worked with several organisations to realise the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal. Leading Pintupi artists were the driving force behind the appeal, creating and donating large-scale collaborative canvases to raise significant funds leading to the establishment of the Purple House.

The Purple House is an Aboriginal, community-controlled non-profit health service, providing dialysis across the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. It began in the Western Desert in response to the rising number of Pintupi and Luritja people forced to leave their Country and families to access treatment for end-stage renal disease – kidney disease is up to 25 times more likely to impact Aboriginal people living in remote communities compared to other Australians.

To keep families together and culture strong, the Purple House provides permanent dialysis care to these communities as well as operating mobile dialysis units called the Purple Truck. In two decades, Central Australia has gone from the worst dialysis outcomes in the country to the best.

Art Gallery of NSW director, Michael Brand said: ‘The Art Gallery of NSW is delighted to continue its long affiliation with Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, known as the Purple House. The Art Gallery was one of the first major institutions to support the enterprise through the auction of Aboriginal artworks at the Art Gallery in 2000.

‘This exhibition marks the first time in over two decades that three of the four large collaborative works, centrepieces of the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal, have been placed on public display reminding us of this important moment in our history. I hope this exhibition brings greater awareness to the Purple House community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists across the country whose work will be front and centre of our expanded campus, due for completion at the end of 2022.’

Purple House director, Irene Nangala said: ‘I was in Sydney for that auction 21 years ago. We were dreaming for one dialysis machine in Kintore so that our families could come home. It was a great night. We were all so proud and happy. People were very kind. The money raised that night helped us get our family home to Kintore and then we kept going and going.

We are still working hard to help get more people home and keep their spirits strong. We are helping people all over the Australia to get home to their Ngurra,’ added Nangala.

Image: Installation view, featuring works by Patrick Olodoodi Tjungurrayi and Helicopter Tjungurrayi, from the exhibition The Purple House, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2021. Photo © AGNSW, Mim Stirling

Curated by Coby Edgar, Art Gallery of NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art curator, The Purple House features eight paintings created by several Pintupi artists between 1999 and 2015. The exhibition includes three works from the Art Gallery’s collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, as well as significant loans from private collections.

Edgar said: ‘The Purple House is an example of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be successful in developing business models that work for their communities. The Purple House helps people living in remote communities – including some of Australia’s most senior artists – to lead happier and healthier lives, allowing them to record and share their stories for future generations.’

Exhibition highlights include collaborative works made in the late 1990s by artists of Papunya Tula working in the communities of Kintore and Kiwirrkura. The Kiwirrkura men’s painting was painted by nine artists in 1999, the work depicts a water site of Tjangimanta north-east of Kiwirrkura. The work tells the story of a large group of Tingari men passing through the site during their travels to the rock hole and water site of Pinari, north-east of Kintore.

The Kintore women’s painting was painted by a group of 10 artists in 1999 and illustrates the rock hole and water site of Marrapinta, Yumari and Tjintjintjin. The work reveals a large group of women camped at Marrapinta, west of Kiwirrkura. While at the site the women made nose bones, also known as Marrapinti, which are worn for ceremonial occasions.

The three works drawn from the Art Gallery’s collection  include Patrick Olodoodi Tjungurrayi’s Untitled (Two Goanna Ancestors) 1999, which portrays the travels of two Goanna ancestors of the Tjapaltjarri and Tjampitjinpa kinship subsections; Helicopter Tjungurrayi’s Wangkartu 2001, representing the tali, or sand dunes, which dominate the landscape of the south-west of Wirrimanu (Balgo) in the Great Sandy Desert; and Bobby West Tjupurrula’s Tingari sites around Kiwirrkura 2015, which depicts a series of important ceremonial sites in the area around Kiwirrkura and along the southern side of Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay).

On Tuesday 26 October at 7.30pm, join a free online talk In the Frame with special guests Chief Executive Officer of the Purple House, Sarah Brown, Pintupi artist Bobby West Tjupurrula and Coby Edgar. This in-conversation event focuses on the significance of the Western Desert Dialysis Appeal, reflecting on the enduring legacy of collaboration, and looking to the future of the Purple House.

A free kids activity sheet inspired by the vibrant and dazzling linework of Kukatja artist Helicopter Tjungurrayi will be available on-site at the Art Gallery, inviting children to create an artwork that explores personal connections to place.

The Purple House exhibition is on display until 27 February 2022. Entry is free. Exhibitions may be adjusted or cancelled subject to changes to public health advice and guidelines.

The exhibition opening coincides with the reopening of the Art Gallery of NSW. The health and safety of visitors is the top priority of the Art Gallery, which is closely following NSW Public Health Orders. Visitors are required to comply with Public Health Orders and are encouraged to plan their visit by reviewing the COVID-safe guidelines on our website.

For more information about the Purple House health service, visit the Purple House website.