Richard Bell

Australia 1953

Installation, Painting

Richard Bell
Richard Bell
May 10, 2016
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Art can be so much more that an expression of a single person. Sometimes it becomes a voice of an entire people, focused in the visual tales of an individual. Richard Bell is an Australian contemporary artist, but of Aboriginal descent. His people have been victims of ignorance and racism over many years, and he’s taken upon himself to shed some light on this painful subject so that the enchanted circle could finally be broken and everyone could move on to some brighter future. The majority of his artworks are based in his troublesome growing up and all the negativity he’s experienced that was based solely on the color of his skin and belonging to a specific ethnicity.

Richard Bell - Omega (Bell's Theorem), 2013, create wikipedia page and pages edit and search, list and visit all the information and changes regarding policy article section retrieved, page wikipedia edit, wikipedia page, page on wikipedia
Richard Bell – Omega (Bell’s Theorem), 2013, photo credits Milani Gallery

The Liberation Art

Because of his origins, Bell’s work is often misinterpreted as Aboriginal art, where in fact the bigger part of his opus isn’t Aboriginal art – it’s ‘regular’ art, which often carries strong political messages about oppression and injustice. He calls it the Liberation art. His respect for the Aboriginal art is immense, and he holds a grudge against any Australian artist who appropriates it. In fact, in one of his pieces, he actually named all the ones he thought were claiming to be something they are not. Bell thinks that no artist who’s not black and not from the desert areas of Arnhem Land shouldn’t be appropriating Aboriginal art.

His work is often misinterpreted as purely Aboriginal

Richard Bell - Embassy, installation view at 5th Moscow Biennial, 2013, edit wikipedia pages and page based on the recent visit and the list of the policy changes information section and the recent search contact, wikipedia page
Richard Bell – Embassy, installation view at 5th Moscow Biennial, 2013, photo credits Performa 15

Strong Messsages

Strong political messages are imbued in the art of Richard Bell. He is ‘inspired by Edward Bernays, who is considered as the father of the American public relations, and uses his ideas to send messages that are perfectly clear and understandable by many, similarly to propaganda or commercial ads. The artist frequently uses lines, small dots, squares, creating a background in the red/brown palette that typifies traditional Aboriginal art, just so he could paint strong statements over them, statements such as There is no black problem; We were here first; Western art does not exist.

The artist overlays the Aboriginal-looking background with political statements

Richard Bell - Prelude to a Trial (Bell's Theorem), 2011, page on wikipedia edit contact list changes and pages information create article
Richard Bell – Prelude to a Trial (Bell’s Theorem), 2011, photo credits Milani Gallery

The Controversy

Entire Bell’s work is controversial, not just because of the themes and messages he sends, but also because he appropriates other artist’s work, while at the same time fighting against the appropriation of the Aboriginal art. In one series, he completely takes Lichtenstein’s work and modifies it so it would serve his purposes. The piece titled The Peckin’ Order (2007) is an obvious rip off of the original piece called Shipboard Girl, who he laid against the left side of the canvas, reversing the expectations, while at the same time changing her skin color into more black-ish and finally adding the thought bubble that states ”Thank God I’m not Aboriginal”. Bell is also inspired by some historical moments, such as in his piece We Can Be Heroes (2014), which was made in collaboration with Emory Douglas, and it depicts the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, when Australian sprinter, Peter Norman, stood in solidarity with Americans John Carlos and Tommie Smith while they protested against inequality and discrimination.

He fights the appropriation of the Aboriginal art, but he appropriates the work of other artists

Richard Bell - The Peckin' Order, 2007 - Richard Bell and Emory Douglas - We Can Be Heroes, 2014, edit retrieved page from wikipedia and visit regarding article policy
Left: Richard Bell – The Peckin’ Order, 2007. Image via Milani Gallery / Right: Richard Bell and Emory Douglas – We Can Be Heroes, 2014. Image via Art Gallery NSW

Political Art

In recent years, Bell had to rethink the idea of appropriation because of the lawsuits Jeff Koons and Richard Prince faced. His work has nevertheless been provocative and controversial, stating the truth from the perspective of the oppressed, and that, in combination with his own artistic sense, has certainly caused reactions from many people. The experiences of racism are the root of his art, and he projected them in a way that gave the voice to all Aborigines who are fighting to take back the control of their homelands. Bell’s art is political and speaks in a way that other artist cannot.

Richard Bell lives and works in Brisbane.

Featured image: Richard Bell – portrait, image © Robert Nolan-Neylan

All images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
201620th Biennale of SydneyMusuem of Contemporary Art, SydneyGroup
2016Sonsbeek 2016Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem, NetherlandsGroup
2016SMBAStedelijk, Museum Amsterdam Group
2015When Silence FallsArt Gallery of New South Wales, SydneyGroup
2015Propositions ThreeMilani Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2015Performa 15New YorkGroup
2015Neither Back Nor Forward: Acting in the Present16th Jakarta Biennale 2015, Jakarta, IndonesiaGroup
2015The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8)Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, BrisbaneGroup
20159/11MOANA Project Space, PerthGroup
2015Reflex, FigmentEngine Room, Massey University, Wellington, New ZealandGroup
2015All Power to the People: Transcending Borders, Richard Bell & Emory DouglasMilani Gallery, Brisbnae, QueenslandGroup
2015BlakoutSydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, New South WalesGroup
2015See You at the BarricadesArt Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, New South WalesGroup
2015Archibald Prize 2015Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales Group
2014Richard Bell: Imagining Victory, touring exhibition)Casula Powerhouse, Sydney; Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo; Bathurst Regional Art Gallery; Wollongong Art Gallery; Murray Art Museum Albury; RMIT Gallery, Melbourne; Gosford Regional Gallery & Arts CentreSolo
2014EmbassyPerth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth Solo
2014Action at a Distance: The Life and Legacy of John Stewart BellNaughton Gallery, Belfast, Northern IrelandGroup
2014Giving Voice: The Art of DissentSalamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, TasmaniaGroup
2014The Working LifeInstitute of Modern Art, BrisbaneGroup
2014Protest Songs: Artful ActionsLismore Regional Gallery, Lismore, New South WalesGroup
2014Conflict: Contemporary responses to warUniversity of Queensland Art Museum, BrisbaneGroup
2014My Country, I Still Call Australia Home, touring exhibitionAuckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand Group
2013Imagining VictoryArtspace, SydneySolo
2013A Suppository of All WisdomMilani Gallery, BrisbaneSolo
2013Lessons On Etiquette And MannersMonash University Museum of Art, Melbourne Solo
2013Asian Art BiennialNational Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, TaiwanGroup
2013The Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary ArtMoscow, RussiaGroup
2013SakahànThe National Gallery of Canada, OttawaGroup
2013My Country, I Still Call Australia HomeQueensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, BrisbaneGroup
2013Plan BBathurst Regional Art Gallery, Victoria Group
2012Edge of Elsewhere4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, SydneyGroup
2012PropositionsMilani Gallery, Brisbane Group
2011Uz Vs. Them, touring exhibitionTufts University, Boston; University of Kentucky, Kentucky; Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, University of Denver, Denver; Indiana University Art Museum, Indiana Solo
2011You'd Believe Me If I Was A White ManMilani Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2011Ten Years of Contemporary Art: The James C Sourris AM CollectionQueensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane Group
20104th Auckland Triennal: Last Ride in a Hot Air BalloonAuckland, New Zealand Group
2009I Am Not SorryLocation One, New York, USASolo
2009Richard Bell: ProvocateurUniversity Of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane Solo
2009Terra NulliusACC Galerie, Weimar & HALLE 14, Leipzig, GermanyGroup
2009Marelle: The Hidden MissionPenrith Regional Gallery, New South Wales Group
2008Scratch An AussieMilani Gallery, BrisbaneSolo
2008Window ShoppingGertrude Street Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne Solo
2008Scratch An Aussie, Biennale of SydneySydneyGroup
2008Half LightArt Gallery of New South Wales, SydneyGroup
2008Revolutions: Forms That Turn, 2008 Biennale of SydneySydney, AustraliaGroup
2008New MilleniumLismore Regional Gallery, Lismore, NSWGroup
2008Human Rights Arts & Film FestivalCarlton Studios, Melbourne Group
2007Psalm SingingBellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2007Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art TriennialNGA CanberraGroup
2007Power & BeautyHeide Museum of Modern Art, MelbourneGroup
2007Sunshine State, Smart StateCampbelltown Arts Centre, SydneyGroup
2007The Independence ProjectGaleri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Group
2006Richard Bell: PositivityInstitute Of Modern Art, Brisbane Solo
2006Parallel Lives: New Painting in AustraliaTarraWarra Museum of Art, MelbourneGroup
2006Recent AcquisitionsMuseum of Contemporary Art, Sydney Group
2005TransitionBellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2005Queensland Live, touring exhibitionQueensland Art Gallery Group
2004ColourBellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2004Blak InsightsQueensland Art Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
20042004National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Group
2003Made MenMetroarts, Brisbane Solo
2002DiscomfortFireWorks Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2002The White ShowBellas Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2002Lines IIFire-Works Gallery, Brisbane Group
2001A Few Good MenFireworks Gallery, Brisbane Solo
2001Dreamtime: The Dark and The LightSammlung Essl, AustriaGroup
2001The White DesertBellas Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2001A Few of My Favourite ThingsFireworks Gallery, Brisbane Group
1999The new Republics, touring exhibitionAdelaide, England, Canada, South Africa Group
1997Heritage AwardCanberra Group
1996Heritage AwardCanberra Group
1995Text YaHogarth Gallery, Sydney Solo
1995Telstra National Indigenous Art AwardMuseum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, DarwinGroup
1995Heritage AwardCanberra Group
1994Prospectus .38Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute, AdelaideSolo
1994Prospectus .44Gabrielle Pizzi Gallery, Melbourne Solo
1994True Colours, touring exhibitionLondon, Liverpool, Leicester, Perth, Perth, Sydney Group
1993Prospectus .303Aboriginal Cultural Centre, ArmidaleSolo
1993Prospectus .25Moree Regional Gallery, NSWSolo
1993Prospectus .22Fire-Works Gallery, Brisbane Solo
1993Australian PerspectaArt Gallery of New South Wales, SydneyGroup
1993AratjaraDusseldorf, London, HumelbaekGroup
1993Australian Aboriginal ArtBomani Gallery, San FranciscoGroup
1993Ian Abdulla, Richard Bell, Harry WedgeBoomalli Aboriginal Artists' Cooperative, SydneyGroup
1993Plenty Of CampfiresSpace Plentitude, BrisbaneGroup
1993Political WorksSpace Plentitude, Brisbane Group
1992Pretty: SeriousPerc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville Solo
19929th Sydney BiennaleArt Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Group
1992StoriesKerava Museum, HelsinkiGroup
1992Aboriginal*Crisis* LiveInstitute of Modern Art, Brisbane Group
1991This Black + White ThingSpring Hill Baths, BrisbaneSolo
1991Black + White ThingMoree Regional Gallery, NSWSolo
1991Flash PicturesNational Gallery of Australia, CanberraGroup
1991Unfamiliar Territory: Adelaide Biennial Of Australian ArTArt Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide Group
1990BalanceQueensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Group
1989Aboriginal Art: Urban And TribalWiumulli, BrisbaneGroup