Desert Mob: Biggest opening weekend ever

If you didn’t head to Desert Mob this year, your FOMO was warranted. Here’s what you missed.
Desert Mob: Biggest opening weekend ever

The Desert Mob MarketPlace at Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs. Image supplied.

As one of the major Indigenous art events in Australia, you’ve probably heard of the annual exhibition Desert Mob, held in Alice Springs. It brings together the latest contemporary art from Aboriginal-owned art centres in Central Australia and is facilitated by the non-profit peak industry body, Desart, and Araluen Arts Centre.

The 27th Desert Mob opened on 7 September with 6000 visitors attending the exhibition’s opening weekend – the most successful in its history.


‘The official opening always has a special energy about it,’ said Philip Watkins, Desart CEO.

‘With hundreds of artists from 30 Desart member art centres, national visitors as well as locals, it is a unique and vibrant celebration.’

The event includes much more than the exhibition. The second day of Desert Mob kicked off with a Symposium dedicated to highlighting the stories, deep cultural knowledge, and contemporary concerns of Aboriginal artists and their art centres in Central Australia. The Symposium saw approximately 450 people in attendance, with eight artist presentations.

‘This year’s Symposium included the Hermannsburg Potters artists talking about how they are teaching the younger generation about bush tuckers and bush medicine, and the APY Art Centre Collective told the powerful story behind the Australian War Memorial’s commission of a major senior men’s collaborative painting for its permanent display,’ Watkins said. 

Another highlight of the Symposium program was the announcement of the 2017 Desart Art Worker Photography Prize winner, Roseranna Larry from Ikuntji Arts, for her work titled Family’s (Waltja).

Family’s (Waltja) by Roseranna Larry from Ikuntji Arts. Image supplied.

Now in its sixth year, the Photography Prize grew out of the Desart Aboriginal Art Worker program, which delivers opportunities for the development of technical skills and experimentation with new media. A group of Art Workers recently attended a curatorial workshop to curate and install the works for the Photography Prize.

‘This year we had 21 quality entries in the Photography Prize which made judging challenging,’ said Watkins. 

‘We were also very fortunate to have Coby Edgar, the assistant curator from the Art Gallery of NSW, to conduct the curatorial workshop. Hetti Perkins was one of the Judges.’

The weekend of art, culture and insight concluded with the Desert Mob MarketPlace. Held in the Araluen Art Centre grounds, the MarketPlace was an opportunity for buyers to interact directly with artists and art centre staff, and to purchase high quality works of art. 

‘A vast array of paintings, textiles, woven items, artefacts, ceramics and jewellery was sold directly from the artists. These sales opportunities provide further autonomy, sustained growth and stability for Aboriginal owned art centres, which is what Desart is all about.’ 

To find out more about Desart and the annual Desert Mob, visit 

Brooke Boland

Friday 29 September, 2017

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW.