Myles Russell-Cook: Bridging Worlds Through Art and Heritage

Myles Russell-Cook, senior curator of Australian and First Nations art at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), embodies a unique intersection of cultures and disciplines in his curatorial journey. With a diverse background rooted in art, photography, and design anthropology, Russell-Cook brings a multifaceted perspective to his role, shaping the narrative of Indigenous art within a broader cultural context. Myles Russell-Cook: Bridging Worlds Through Art and Heritage

Growing up in a family deeply connected to Indigenous communities, Russell-Cook draws inspiration from his parents’ work as an archaeologist and historian, respectively. “There’s an amazing moment every now and then at the family dinner table where we can be talking about a certain community,” he shares, highlighting the rich tapestry of experiences that inform his curatorial practice.

Russell-Cook’s path to curating was marked by exploration and evolution. Initially trained in commercial photography and digital media design, he eventually found his calling in curatorial work, viewing it as a profoundly creative endeavor. “Curating is an incredibly creative practice,” he asserts, emphasizing the role of curators in shaping artistic narratives and fostering dialogue within the art community.

Throughout his tenure at NGV, Russell-Cook has witnessed significant shifts in the perception and representation of Indigenous art. From being the sole Aboriginal curator to overseeing a team of Indigenous curators and specialists, he has been instrumental in championing diverse voices and perspectives within the institution.

Mentorship lies at the heart of Russell-Cook’s mission, as he seeks to empower the next generation of Indigenous artists and curators. Through initiatives like the Country Road + NGV First Nations Commissions: My Country program, he facilitates meaningful collaborations between emerging talents and industry leaders, ensuring a continuum of cultural exchange and innovation.

One of Russell-Cook’s notable contributions is the integration of Australian and First Nations art within NGV’s exhibitions and collections. By bridging traditional distinctions and presenting a holistic narrative of Australian art, he aims to honor the rich heritage and ongoing legacy of Indigenous creativity.

The recent establishment of Wurrdha Marra, a permanent space dedicated to First Nations art at NGV Australia, reflects Russell-Cook’s commitment to foregrounding Indigenous perspectives. Through diverse mediums and innovative expressions, this space invites visitors to engage with Indigenous art in all its complexity and vibrancy.

For Russell-Cook, identity is fluid and multifaceted, reflecting the interconnectedness of heritage and artistic practice. As he continues to navigate the intersection of Indigenous and Australian art, he embraces the inherent “messiness” of cultural hybridity, offering a nuanced and inclusive vision of artistic expression.

Country Road + NGV First Nations Commissions: My Country, an exhibition curated by Russell-Cook, opens on March 22 at NGV Australia, showcasing the dynamic convergence of Indigenous creativity and contemporary design. 

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