Art & Galleries in Central Australia

The tradition of art in Central Australia stretches back tens of thousands of years and serves as an incredible record of a continuous cultural history. Art has always played a major role in the culture of the region, serving to capture and carry on knowledge of deep spiritual and cultural significance. In particular, the stories, symbols, and styles of the region’s art reflect its traditional owners’ profound relationship with country. 

What is perhaps most remarkable about Aboriginal art history in the region is its continuity over such a long time. For example, going to see the rock art at Emily Gap in the East MacDonnell Ranges you will see thousands-of-years-old representations of the same caterpillar dreaming story still maintained by the oral traditions of the Arrernte traditional owners in modern times. 

Likewise, visiting art galleries in Alice Springs or Uluru—like the Araluen Arts Centre or the Gallery of Central Australia—you will find contemporary Aboriginal artists carrying on ancient stylistic techniques and forms of symbolism. These galleries not only reflect the work of regional artists but also gather together some of the most outstanding Aboriginal art from across the country. 

Art in Central Australia has of course changed much over time. Albert Namatjira’s stunning modern watercolours of the region’s landscape are markedly different from the 10,000-year-old rock carvings at N’Dhala Gorge. To visit the art galleries and workshops of Central Australia is to see innovation as it occurs. 

Come and immerse yourself in the art of Central Australia and you will find yourself taking a journey through thousands of years of history. 

Street Art in Alice Springs

Stepping outside of the Alice Springs art galleries, you will also find a wealth of contemporary Aboriginal street art painted on the facades of many buildings throughout the CBD. With over 85 pieces of public art, come and visit the Alice Springs Visitor Information Centre to pick up you own street art map, so you can see and explore the many stories depicted through street art. 

Street Art Iltja Ntjarra

Street Art by Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre - Leichhardt Street, YHA

Street Art Coles Mural

Street Art - Coles Mural, Railway Terrace

Art Classes

At some of the art galleries in Central Australia you will find opportunities to enter workshops to learn about and practice Aboriginal painting traditions. In such classes you can learn about stylistic techniques and symbols, as well as the ancient stories they are used to represent. See Standley Chasm, Maruku Arts, and Ayeye Atyenhe Art, for related art classes.

Outside the Aboriginal art domain, another art class you can participate in is paper making at Curtin Springs. See how the process begins with harvesting grasses, and gets transformed into your own piece of paper to take home as a souvenir.


Artists in Residence

If you are looking for a less hands on way to experience art in Central Australia, try aligning your gallery visits with some that offer Artists in Residence programs. While you don't get to paint yourself, you will get the first look in on artists creating their own masterpieces. Visit Yubu Napa, Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA) or Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre to potentially see an artist in action.

Standley Chasm Art and Cultural Tour

Standley Chasm dot-painting workshop

Curtin Springs Paper Making

Curtin Springs Paper Making Tour

Itlja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre

Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA)

Rock Art

Throughout the East MacDonnell Ranges you can find a number of sites of ancient rock art, such as the caterpillar dreaming (creation) story represented at Emily GapN'Dhala Gorge has  some of the oldest rock carvings believed to be over 10,000 years old, as well as a large collection with 6,000 ancient carvings. Follow the newly opened boardwalk at Napwerte / Ewaninga Rock Carvings to see some of the highest concentrations of petroglyphs in the NT. 

In the West Macs visit the Ochre Pits to see the beautiful coloured bands of ochre lying on a sandy creek. Learn about the ochre trade, and how the ochre is used in traditional ceremonies. 

While visiting Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, you will notice while walking around Uluru that there are a number of thousands-years-old rock art paintings done by the local Anangu and their ancestors. The park's rock art sites have many layers with paintings done on top of one another.

Please respect all of the rock art sites, do not touch any aboriginal art and take notice of when photography is or is not allowed of the art.

Uluru Camels Kata Tjuta

Looking at Rock Art in Emily Gap


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