On the 1st June 1992 Mbantua Gallery first opened its doors at 71 Gregory Terrace, right in the heart of Alice Springs. Today it is one of the largest privately owned aboriginal art galleries in the world.
The Gallery began in 1987 as an offshoot of Mbantua Store, a small general store situated at 55 Gap Road in Alice Springs. Established by the Finke River Mission back in the 1950’s, Mbantua Store catered for the shopping needs of the traditional Aboriginal people and had done so since well before any of the major supermarket chains ever came to town. It is now part of Alice Springs history.
Mbantua Store also had a small Aboriginal Art section for many years and so Mbantua Gallery was created. The close affiliation it had with traditional Aboriginal people, the long history of dealing in Aboriginal Art, and the increased demand for and production of art, made it a foregone conclusion that Mbantua Gallery was destined to evolve.
Specializing in art from the Utopia region north-east of Alice Springs, from an early stage Mbantua played a key role in the history and evolution of Utopia Art. The emergence of the Utopia artists is considered to be the largest art movement in the world. Many renowned Australian artists come from this region including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Minnie Pwerle, Greeny Purvis, Gloria Petyarre and Barbara Weir, The first ‘Leaves’ painting by Gloria Petyarre belongs in the Mbantua Cultural Museum as well as one of the earliest known Emily Kame Kngwarreye paintings.
Traditional Aboriginal life is lived in the Utopia Region. The native languages, mainly Alyawarr or Anmatyerre, are the first spoken, with English a second, third or fourth language or sometimes not spoken at all. Traditional ceremonies, hunting and business are still carried out, kadaicha men (tribal assassins) exist, and sacred sites are maintained. The Utopia art is known widely for its vibrant colours and contemporary appeal, yet in knowing its origin, the art of Utopia becomes even more intriguing.
In conjunction with Mbantua Store, staff members from Mbantua Gallery have visited the remote Utopia community on a regular basis since 1986. The round trip is in excess of 600 kilometers. During these years, a wonderful rapport has developed between the people of Utopia and Mbantua Gallery. More than 250 different artists from Utopia have painted for Mbantua Gallery with new artists emerging regularly.
A founding member of Art Trade and a member of the Indigenous Art Code, Mbantua Gallery strongly supports good ethics and is highly recognised within Australia and worldwide as being reputable, having also been chosen as the sole Aboriginal art representative for HRH the Prince of Wales’ 2004 Australia tour. Mbantua Gallery is also regarded as having the utmost quality in customer service.
Promotion of Aboriginal art and culture is also a very important mission. Representatives of Mbantua Gallery travel regularly both nationally and internationally to promote the art. This includes private Utopia art viewings, presentations on the art & culture, public exhibitions, fundraising exhibitions and school seminars. Please join our newsletter to be kept informed of news and events. Mbantua Gallery has worked with film crews from many countries including France, Spain, Japan, USA and Australia, as they document aboriginal life and art from Utopia. From time to time you can catch owner Tim Jennings talking about the Gallery and Cultural Museum with presenter Lachlan Daddo on in-flight entertainment on QANTAS flights arriving into Alice Springs .
In May 2007 we officially opened our second Gallery, the Mbantua Aboriginal Fine Art Gallery, which is located in the Darwin Mall, 2/30 Smith St.
In November 2010 we opened our third gallery located at 161 Main St in Mornington Vic.
Mission Statement for Mbantua Aboriginal Art Gallery
The following mission statement reflects the relationship between Mbantua Aboriginal Art Gallery and the Indigenous people of Central Australia.
'Our Mission is to continue to promote Aboriginal Art and through this the Culture of the Aboriginal people, to learn as much as possible, to assist the Aboriginal people and to work in harmony with the traditional Aboriginal people of Central Australia to keep their art and culture alive'.