A fresh look at Cook

In a compelling new exhibition, Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA) puts the complex and contested legacy of Captain Cook (1728-1779) under the lens – 250 years since his landing on Dharawal Country, on the southern headland of what is also now known as Botany Bay.

Co-curated by Flinders University colleagues Dr Ali Gumillya Baker, multi-disciplinary Mirning artist and Senior Lecturer in Indigenous and Australian Studies, and FUMA Director Fiona Salmon, the exhibition features works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous contemporary Australian artists that challenge Eurocentric representations of Cook and the nation’s recent past.

“Armed with secret orders to seek the ‘Great South Land’ and take possession of it in the name of the King of Great Britain, Cook is celebrated and mythologised in the grand narrative of white Australia as a founding father,” Dr Baker says.

Chips Mackinolty, The first pandemic, 2020, digital print on archival paper, 40 x 36 cm, © Chips Mackinolty 2020

“However this version of the nation’s genesis – and dominant representations of Australian history that follow – have come under intense scrutiny in public discourses since the late 20th century.”

In the hold pays tribute to many of the artists who have been at the forefront of these discussions and debates, who have enabled us to see Cook in an alternate light by deconstructing and disrupting representations that venerate his achievement, and by exposing the devasting effects of his legacy.” Dr Baker says.

Comprising prints, photography, moving image and sculpture the exhibition draws on FUMA’s expansive collection of art, one of the largest and most diverse of any university in Australia, to include acclaimed artists Christian Thompson, Julie Gough, Danie Mellor, Leah King-Smith, Queenie McKenzie, Darren Siwes, Fiona Foley, Judy Watson, and the late Gordon Bennett.

In addition, the show contains a number of generous loans, among them the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Close Contact (2018) by Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira, which was recipient of the prestigious Ramsay Art Prize in 2019.

Ali Gumillya Baker,
Sovereign Fleet (black),2013, featuring Alexis West (performer),
photographic print
on archival paper,
157.5 x 107 cm, © Ali Gumillya Baker 2020

Other works brought into the frame are Dr Baker’s majestic photographic print Sovereign Fleet (2013);  the frank and vibrant ‘Cook’ paintings by Sandra Saunders (2002-2011);  and the recently released graphic works by Chips Mackinloty, The first pandemic (2020), and Therese Ritchie, They all look the same to me (2020) – both of which will be showing in Adelaide for the first time.

“Exquisite and unsettling in equal measure, In the hold contemplates our collective responsibility to our histories,” Ms Salmon says.

“Viewers cannot help but question the memorialisation of Cook’s landing and grapple with what it means in the present day,” Ms Salmon says.

In the hold | Decolonising Cook in contemporary Australian art  will be open to the public from Tuesday 2 June to Wednesday 30 September 2020, at FUMA Gallery, Flinders University, Bedford Park.

In accordance with Government advice, physical distancing and hygiene measures will be in place.

Online exhibition and education resources


Visit Flinders University Museum of Art
Flinders University, Sturt Road Bedford Park

Located ground floor Social Sciences North building
Humanities Road adjacent carpark 5

Monday to Friday | 10am – 5pm or by appointment
Thursdays | Until 7pm
Closed weekends and public holidays

Posted in
Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA)