Wanapati Yunupiŋu Awarded First Nations Commission Supported by Bennelong Funds Management

Melbourne Art Fair Principal Partner Bennelong Funds Management demonstrates its commitment to the visual arts in the support of the Melbourne Art Fair First Nations Commission; an acquisitive commission reserved for an artist exhibiting within the Fair’s inaugural Indigenous Art Centre Program.

The $10,000 commission was awarded to artist Wanapati Yunupiŋu from Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka, with the piece Gurtha to be exhibited at the 2022 Melbourne Art Fair, taking place 17-20 February at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Wharf. In a further show of support, Bennelong has today announced that Gurtha will be gifted to Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), one of Australia’s most prominent collecting institutions, located in Greater Shepparton, in the North Central corridor of Victoria.

“On behalf of Bennelong Funds Management and the broader art community, we extend our sincere congratulations to Wanapati Yunupinu, who is a worthy recipient of the commission. We’re proud to support First Nations artists via our partnership with the Melbourne Art Fair, and are confident this striking piece of art will be a popular addition to the newly-renovated Shepparton Art Museum,” says Craig Bingham, CEO, Bennelong Funds Management.

SAM is one of Australia’s outstanding regional art museums, recognised for its nationally significant collection of Indigenous art.

“We are thrilled that the Melbourne Art Fair Commission by Wanapati Yunupiŋu is to find a home in Shepparton Art Museum’s Collection. Yunupiŋu’s recent work etching traditional designs onto the surfaces of reclaimed road signs is a vibrant expression of Yolŋu culture. He is part of a dynamic group of artists from Yirrkala who continue to innovate with form and materials. We thank MAF and Bennelong Funds Management for this significant donation. SAM is well-known for our major holding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, and the addition of Yunupiŋu’s work to our collection will help us to better reflect the breadth and diversity of art practice by First Nations artists across Australia,” says Shelley McSpedden, Acting Artistic Director and Senior Curator, Shepparton Art Museum

Melbourne Art Fair, 17-20 February, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

The Melbourne Art Fair Indigenous Art Centre Program is an initiative of Melbourne Art Foundation delivered in partnership with Agency Projects, funded under the Australian Government’s Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) and Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) programs.


Wanapati Yunupiŋu

Wanapati is the son of deceased artist Miniyawany Yunupiŋu.

Miniyawany was a senior arist and ceremonial leader within the Gumatj clan at Biranybirany. Consequently, Wanapati has inherited rich ceremonial instruction from his father, and was trained while living between the outstation communities of Waṉḏawuy (his mother’s clan land) and Biranybirany.

Following his fathers death in 2008, he began to paint his clan design on bark, yidaki and larrakitj. During late 2019 Wanapati began working on found and discarded street signs and metal forms etching his sacred Gumatj clan designs and narrative’s into their surface using a rotary tool. In doing so he was part of a group of artists who followed the artistic movement of fellow artist Gunybi Ganambarr. Gunybi stretched the art centre’s guiding principle which required the use of natural media in depicting sacred designs. This was expressed in the phrase, ‘if you are going to paint the land you must use the land’ . The elders accepted that Gunybi in presenting materials and mediums which he found on or within the land was in fact using ‘the land’. In creating this loophole he became the originator of the ‘Found’ movement in North East Arnhemland.

In 2021 Wanapati was included in the ground-breaking and sell out exhibition ‘Murrŋiny – a story of metal from the east’ at the Northern Centre of Contemporary Art in partnership with Salon Art Projects. His works were highly revered and collected by the Art Gallery of NSW and significant private collectors both within Australia and internationally.


Image: Wanapati Yunupiŋu, Gurtha (detail), 2021, Etched Aluminum, 180cm x 120cm. Courtesy the artist and Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka