The Seattle Art Museum has become the US leader in the display of Australian Aboriginal art with the major exhibition Ancestral Modern: Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan and Levi Collection (until 2 September 2012). Seattle lawyer Bob Kaplan and Margaret Levi, who is Professor of Politics at the US Studies Centre, have gifted or promised 100 major works to SAM. The exhibit was launched by Ambassador Kim Beazley in the presence of four Yolgnu artists from Yirrkala and Native American elders.

The US Studies Centre’s Professor Roger Benjamin co-convened (with Chris McAuliffe of Harvard) the international symposium “Burning Issues: Value in Contemporary Aboriginal Art” to celebrate the opening. It featured talks by Djambawa Marawili and Brenda L. Croft, Northwest Native artist Preston Singletary, and a power-packed group of American and Australian academics, curators and museum directors. Issues debated include cross-cultural aesthetics, whether Aboriginal art is finding acceptance as ‘global’ fine art, and how value is produced by the actions of artists’ co-operatives, museums and publishers.

The lavish catalogue for Ancestral Modern, edited by Wally Caruana and Pam McClusky, is published by Yale University Press for SAM.