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The depiction of musicians and dancers in Australia

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 17:58 authored by Arabella Teniswood-HarveyArabella Teniswood-Harvey
The representation of contemporary classical musicians and dancers in Australia’s National Portrait Gallery can be examined from a number of perspectives. On the one hand, the collection reflects (sometimes through omission) significant strands in the development of Australia’s cultural and artistic identity: the early transplantation and emulation of European art music and dance; the emerging confidence in an Australian interpretative voice; the cultural melting pot that has resulted from increasing multiculturalism; the interest in landscape and indigenous culture from non-indigenous people; and the vibrancy of our indigenous culture itself, as told and retold by indigenous artists. Yet the questions of who are represented and in what manner, require us to consider the curatorial motivations that have shaped the collection: how does the collection reflect cultural hegemony? Who are the arbiters of taste? As Carol Duncan writes in her article “The Art Museum as Ritual” (1995), to “control a museum means precisely to control the representation of a community and its highest values and truths. It is also the power to define the relative standing of individuals within that community […] What we see and do not see in art museums […] is closely linked to larger questions about who constitutes the community and who defines its identity.” By studying the institutional framing of musicians and dancers at a national level, we can examine the values that influence our culture and artistic life. Given the visual bias of contemporary culture, such curatorial decisions are crucial: it is through the visual that ideas about music and dance are communicated. Therefore, in addition to exploring the role of the institution, this paper considers the power of the artworks themselves to communicate and influence the status of classical music and dance in Australia.


Publication title

RIdIM 17th International Conference: Music and dance in visual culture Programme




School of Creative Arts and Media


Association Répertoire International d‘Iconographie Musicale and The Friends of Music Society

Place of publication


Event title

17th International Conference Association Repertoire International D'Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM): Music and Dance in Visual Culture

Event Venue

Athens, Greece

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

The performing arts

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