EXHIBITIONS INITIATED, ORGANISED OR SPONSORED BY NEIL MCLEOD

In the late 1980's Neil McLeod began to organize major exhibitions of contemporary Aboriginal art. These were always undertaken with utmost care : repeated consultation with the artists, full permission granted for works to be on public display, arrangements very frequently made for artists to be present at the openings of their own shows.

In addition, the art works, and the stories  connected to them, have been carefully annotated and recorded, both for the occasion of the exhibition, and  for posterity. Archival records  contain a letter from Kevin Jorda, grandson of the late Jack Whera ; "We have viewed all the works, and are happy for them to be displayed and sold" which typifies the in-depth consultation and ongoing contact maintained with communities.

An exhibition of Western Arnhem Land paintings in 1987 at his Collections of the Dreaming Gallery in Tecoma (VIC) was followed by a major display at The Age Gallery in March 1988. Initiated and Curated by Neil McLeod, it was attended by artists Bobby Nganjmirra and Thompson Ulitjiri, who were brought to Melbourne by Neil McLeod and hosted in his home during their 9-day visit. The show was opened by Alex Barlow, Education Officer of the  Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra . In addition, Neil arranged interviews with them on Good Morning Australia (March 1), showed them the sights of Melbourne, and took them to the National Gallery in Canberra to meet with Wally Caruana.

This was followed in May 1988 by a major exhibition in Sydney, the International Art Fair at Darling Harbor. Arranged and curated by Neil McLeod, this was the only display of Aboriginal art work at this International Fair -  perhaps some indication of why Neil McLeod has been vilified and slandered by jealous competitors in subsequent years. He cared enough about Aboriginal art and culture to slog through the hard times, to make the art known, conspicuous and visible to a previously unaware public. 

International art fair at Darling Harbour,Sydney curated by Neil Mcleod

Working closely with Dorothy Bennett, from Darwin, a respected dealer in Western Arnhem Land art, Neil arranged for her to be present at the exhibition, and to speak on the Ray Martin Show. Dorothy Bennett was also officially in attendance at the Fair, sharing that responsibility with Neil. Also immensely active and successful in working to gain publicity, Neil gained interviews with The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, and with Radio 2KY
and Channel 7  -  a further cause for peevish competitors  to subsequently feel aggrieved.

Further exhibitions of works from Western Arnhem Land, the Kimberley, Central Australia and a host of other communities continued to flourish during 1988/89. Creative and possessed of enormous energy, Neil McLeod had become fascinated with textiles:  he began to research materials and textiles, eventually hitting on the idea of designing leather garments and having them painted by Aboriginal artists.

The generation of this project called for immense input of time, money and energy. Travelling to Textile College,  to conferences and specialist textile businesses interstate, consulting and experimenting with paint, he built up the knowledge to make it a possibility. At this time Jonathon Kumintjara Brown was staying in Neil's home, and was subsequently one of the artists who painted the garments.

 In September 1988 Bobby Nganjmirra and Thompson Ulitjiri came to Sydney, at Neil McLeod's expense, to view and approve the design of the leather garments before they were made up by Frantic Leather in Surry Hills. Interspersed with a trip to the Kimberley, a four week visit to Melbourne of artists from Western Arnhem Land hosted in Neil's home, and a trip to Western Arnhem Land, all requiring time, money and energy, the project advanced gradually.

Robin Nganjmirra and his family at Oenpelli displaying the leather coat he painted for Mick Jagger.

During 1989 the garments were completed, resulting in the exhibition "Handpainted Luxury Leather Garments with Artwork Created Over Thousands of Years. The Fashion Event of the Year" at Jaques Reymonds Restaurant in Richmond (VIC). Garments styled by Neil McLeod, garments approved and painted with traditional designs by Bobby Nganjmirra, Thompson Ulitjiri, Lin Onus, Djawida, Robin Nganjmirra, Wesley Nganjmirra, and Jonathon Kumintjara Brown. The Fashion Show was accompanied by an exhibition of Aboriginal art from Tasmania, Central Australia, Western Arnhem Land and the Kimberley.

Many exhibitions and similar projects (including the painting of a Nissan car by Jonathon Kumintjara Brown and Lin Onus) flourished over the next two years.

 From early to mid 1990s Neil McLeod became increasingly focussed on the Kimberley region, and on projects in PNG. The latter involved initiating the re-creation and re-enactment of ancient ceremonies, still remembered by the elders, but no longer practised by the younger community, and the rehabilitation of ancient crafts and artifacts.

Exhibitions of artworks, accompanied by visits to Australia of notable New Guinea artworkers, resulted  from his initiation of these projects. In particular, "Fur, Feathers and Ochre",  an outstanding exhibition of important artworks from Papua New Guinea, curated by Neil McLeod and sponsored by Air Niugini, was held at Manningham Art Space in August, 1995. This exhibition was officially opened by Sir Frederick Rehier, High Commissioner to Australia from Papua New Guinea.

During his lifetime Neil McLeod has demonstrated a passionate urge to assist others to establish themselves and gain recognition, with the end result that, to date, as well as his own Solo and Group exhibitions, he has initiated, curated, organized or sponsored over fifty exhibitions of work of other artists.

During 1998 extensive negotiations were undertaken by many former Shire of Sherbrooke residents to acquire, from the newly expanded Shire of Yarra Ranges, the now vacant premises of the old Shire. Much good work was put in by many groups and individuals. Finally Neil McLeod engaged  in negotiations with  the Shire of Yarra Ranges, and the Dandenong Ranges Community Cultural Centre was established.  The  history of this time, and of further exhibitions, is encapsulated in the section "Burrinja".  

Tuberan dancers in New Ireland,PNG. Exhibition of artifacts and costumes :Poko Poko Nau at Burrinja

Over many years Neil McLeod  has made fourteen extended trips to Papua New Guinea,  initiating, collecting, seeking to revive and record cultural practices, seeking to highlight the ancient cultures much as he has done with Australian Aboriginal people.

 For his extensive work in New Guinea he was honoured to receive, in 1997, The USA International Oceanic Society Inc "First International Award" for his photographic documentation of traditional ceremonies in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, for the "Preservation of Culture and Lifestyle of People of the Tabar Islands".

Two major projects, the Lasisi Canoe (currently housed in the Museum of South Australia) and the Haus Tambaran (Spirit House), donated to the Museum of South Australia, are recorded in separate sections of this website.

Neil McLeod retains a high interest in artwork and culture of Papua New Guinea, with additional visits planned, and several publications in preparation.