Brisbane-based artist, Tony Albert's work often discusses and recycles genuine Aboriginalia, including kitsch, mass-produced objects such as plaster heads and black velvet paintings. Albert was a finalist in the 2006 and 2007 Telstra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards.
Tony Albert was born in Brisbane in 1981. He is one of the longest serving members of the Brisbane-based artists collective, proppaNOW. His career has focused on the experience of displaced urban Aboriginal people who are alienated by history from their traditional country, language and material culture – that is, the demographic majority of Aboriginal people in Australia. His Campfire – a bar heater, with electrical cord in the Aboriginal colours, is a comedic take on the modern urban Aboriginal experience. The campfire, a gathering place in both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture, is still a collective experience where knowledge is shared and exchanged. It is relevant to note that Albert’s father’s country is around Cardwell in north Queensland, the traditional land of the Garimay rainforest people with whom he identifies. His family relationships extend further, to Palm Island off the Queensland city of Townsville. Albert was among the first to graduate with a degree in Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art from the Queensland College of Art (QCA) in 2004. Australian Art Collector magazine has named Albert as one of the country’s most collectable artists several times. Albert toys repetitively with popular culture and the representation of Aboriginal people within it. His most recent work recycles genuine Aboriginalia, including kitsch, mass-produced objects such as plaster heads and black velvet paintings. He alters the context in which these objects are understood – most dramatically in his installation work Headhunter, which was purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2007. The point he makes is that Aboriginal people’s bodies, literally and metaphorically, are hunted down and commodified. He has since embarked on a shield-making project with members of his family in Cardwell. He was preselected for the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2006 and 2007 and his work was consequently hung in the exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) alongside that of many of his peers, including his acknowledged mentor Richard Bell . In 2007 Albert was the recipient of the $15,000 acquisitive Sunshine Coast Art Prize for his photographic series Gangsta Supastar , in which he acts out the role of 50perCENT, an identifiably Aboriginal hip hop artist/gangsta whose posse includes such imaginary personas as Lil Gin, Murri J Blige and Notorious B.E.L.L. Major group exhibitions include: 'The Visitors’, Penrith Regional Gallery (2007); the 2007 Arc Biennial, QUT Art Museum; 'The Revenge of Genres’, Les Brasseurs in Liege Belgium and Cité International des Arts, Paris (2007); the 23rd and 24th Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Art Award, MAGNT (2006 & 2007) and 'Thresholds of Tolerance’, Australian National University, Canberra in 2007. His work has been collected by the National Museum of Australia, Caloundra Regional Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Griffith Artworks, Brisbane.