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Images of Australian Musicians: Diversity, Identity, Status, Class

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 18:21 authored by Arabella Teniswood-HarveyArabella Teniswood-Harvey

In this paper, the myth of Australia as a classless society is critically interrogated by examining the portrayal of musicians in Australia’s National Portrait Gallery. The collection (and its development) can be understood as a reflection of our national cultural identity, and its analysis raises issues of cultural hegemony and the cultural cringe, along with the impact of globalization. The institutional framing of musicians at a national level reveals the values that influence our culture and our artistic life. As it is through the visual that many ideas about music are communicated, the constitution of such a collection can mirror and reflect, but also distort and even block, the significance of individual achievement.

This paper considers the portraiture of classical musicians in relation to jazz, pop, experimental and indigenous musicians; issues such as gender, race and cultural identity are also considered. The specific research question is: what can we learn about the diversity, identity and status of musicians in Australia by studying their visual representation? Given the visual bias of contemporary society, the representation of music plays a powerful role in communicating ideas about music to the broader public. The larger question is: how can this study contribute to current discussions about class?


Publication title

Through the looking glass


J Paget and V Rogers




School of Creative Arts and Media


Musicological Society of Australia

Place of publication

Edith Cowan, Perth, Western Australia

Event title

41st Musicological Society of Australia (MSA) National Conference is held in conjunction with the 17th Symposium on Indigenous Music and Dance (SIMD) and the Australasian Computer Music Conference (ACMC)

Event Venue

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Music; The creative arts

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