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250 × 190 × 18 mm
304 pages
149 illustrations, 142 colour
13 Aug 2018

Rattling Spears A History of Indigenous Australian Art Ian McLean

Large, bold and colourful, indigenous Australian art has made an indelible impression on the contemporary imagination. But it is controversial, dividing the stakeholders from those who smell a scam. Whether the artists are victims or victors, there is no denying their impact in the media and on the art world and collectors worldwide. How did Australian art become the most successful indigenous form in the world? How did its artists escape the ethnographic and souvenir markets to become players in an art world to which they had previously been denied access? Finely illustrated, and now available in paperback, this full historical account makes you question everything you were taught about contemporary art.

‘This is the first book to provide comprehensive coverage of the unfolding of indigenous art across time and place, across styles and borders, and across cultures . . . Clearly organized and well written, the content is theoretical and factual, and McLean supports the discussion with excellent illustrations. One of the most important publications on the topic to date. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘[Rattling Spears] constitutes the best, most comprehensive, accessible and detailed survey of a complex and beguiling field of study that I have yet come across. It is an outstanding achievement.’ — Sydney Review of Books

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Ian Mclean is Senior Research Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Wollongong and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. His previous books include Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Art (2014), How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art (2011) and White Aborigines: Identity Politics in Australian Art (1998, reissue 2009).


1 Origin stories: The dreamtime in Botany Bay, 1770
2 Indigenous art and empire in Sydney, 1788-1830
3 Post-contact indigenous art in the Australian colonies, 1835-1900

4 Indigenous art in white Australia, 1900-1970
5 The invention of indigenous contemporary art, 1970-1990

6 Remote masters, 1985-2015
7 Post-identity: Urban indigenous art

Conclusion: A theory of indigenous art in the age of modernity

Photo Acknowledgements