|Born||1953 (age 69–70)|
|Known for||Painting, contemporary Indigenous Australian art|
|Awards||National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award|
Themes and media
Bell works in many media: paintings, video art, installations, text art and performance art. His subjects are largely based on various Indigenous rights issues: the effect of colonialism on Aboriginal people in Australia, which has rendered their history invisible; identity; and the complex issues surrounding the production of Aboriginal art.
In 2003, Bell co-founded the Indigenous art collective proppaNOW, with Jennifer Herd, Vernon Ah Kee, Fiona Foley and others. In the same year, his work came to the attention of the wider public for Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem).
In 2011 Bell was interviewed in a digital story and oral history for the State Library of Queensland's James C Sourris AM Collection. In the interview Bell talks to art historian Rex Butler about the development of his artistic practice, about winning the NATSIAA award, and the artist group proppaNOW.
In March 2012, Bell won a court case against a person who had issued a take-down notice in 2011, for "unjustifiable threats of copyright infringement", and was awarded A$147,000 in damages, setting "an important precedent".
Bell's Theorem (2003)
Bell came to the attention of the wider community after his 240×540 cm painting Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem) won the 2003 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA). It prominently featured the text "Aboriginal art. It's a white thing". In his manifesto accompanying the work, Bell pointed out inequities that had existed in the Aboriginal art industry for a long time.
Pay the Rent (2013)
Bell's work Pay the Rent, aka Embassy, a replica of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, was first displayed in Melbourne in 2013. He says that the work "represents a number calculating how much money the Australian Government owes Aboriginal people — and that's just for the rent of the place". The interior of the tent functions as a display space, in which videos and other archival materials are shown, and for hosting public talks and performances, and informal conversations. Pay the Rent has since been erected at Performa 15 in New York City and at the 2019 Venice Biennale in 2019. In mid-2022, the work was installed on Friedrichsplatz, in front of Fridericianum, a museum in Kassel, Germany, as part of the international quinquennial exhibition documenta.
Pay the Rent / Embassy was displayed in Adelaide on the forecourt of the Art Gallery of South Australia, as part of Tarnanthi, on 22–23 October 2022. It was accompanied by film screenings and talks, as part of the Adelaide Film Festival's new visual arts programme.
- 2003: Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award for Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem)
Bell's work has been included in many significant group exhibitions, including:
- 1992, 2008 and 2016: Biennale of Sydney
- 2006: Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane (Positivity)
- 2007: the first National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia
- 2015: the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial at QAGOMA
- 2022: documenta 15, Kassel, Germany (joined by Aboriginal artist, Gary Foley, Canadian Indigenous curator Wanda Nanibush, and Brisbane-based Indigenous youth collective Digi Youth Arts)
Solo exhibitions include:
- 2021: first major solo exhibition, at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
- June 2022: first major European solo show at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, for which Bell wrote a follow-up to his 2002 Theorem, titled "Contemporary art. It's a white thing"
- 2022: exhibition and commissioned work for the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, Italy, a replica of the shack he grew up in near Charleville, which was demolished local authorities in 1967
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
- National Gallery of Australia
- Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art
- Higgins, Jo (1 July 2022). "Aboriginal artist Richard Bell brings replica tent embassy to Germany's Documenta, ahead of 2023 Tate London installation". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
- "Archibald Prize Archibald 2015 work: ME by Richard Bell". Art Gallery of NSW. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
- Bell, Richard (14 June 2014). "The death of Queensland artist Gordon Bennett is a huge blow to the Australian contemporary art world" (Biographical note). The Guardian. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- Butler, Rex (October–December 2006). "Richard Bell: Psychoanalysis - Australian Art Collector". Australian Art Collector (38). Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
- "The hand of fate: how this painting won $20,000 on the toss of a coin", The Age, 24 April 2011
- "James C Sourris AM Collection". State Library of Queensland.
- "Richard Bell digital story, educational interview and oral history". State Library of Queensland. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
- "Well-known Australian artist receives damages award for unjustifiable threats of copyright infringement", Mallesons Stephen Jaques, 23 March 2012
- Colour Theory, SBS International Archived 1 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- "Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem)". Milani Gallery. Archived from the original on 16 January 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2022.
- "AFF x AGSA: Embassy". Adelaide Film Festival. 20 July 2022. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
- Smith, Terry (11 July 2022). "DOCUMENTA 15, 2022: Collectivism and Controversy". Artlink Magazine. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
- "AFF22 Visual Arts Program". Adelaide Film Festival. 21 July 2022. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
- Richard Bell profile, Kooriweb
- Richard Bell at the Art Gallery of New South Wales
- Richard Bell digital story, educational interview and oral history. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 19 April 2011. Richard Bell talks to Rex Butler about the development of his artistic practice, about winning the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award and the artist group Proppa Now
- Portrait of an artist: Richard Bell. James C. Sourris AM Collection of Artist Interviews, State Library of Queensland Vimeo