Transformative Gift Makes Kluge-Ruhe a Global Center for Indigenous Prints 

Basil Hall working with artist Jack Minmidhi.

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia is proud to announce the acquisition of 1,316 limited edition fine art prints by leading Indigenous Australian artists. The prints are a donation from master printmaker Basil Hall and represent twenty years of collaboration with Indigenous artists. The gift is the largest single donation of artworks to UVA since John Kluge’s 1997 donation, which established Kluge-Ruhe as the only museum dedicated to Indigenous Australian art in the United States.

Basil Hall is one of Australia’s most respected printmakers and a foundational figure in the efflorescence of contemporary Indigenous Australian printmaking. Since 1983, Hall has worked with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian artists to facilitate their work in a variety of media including etchings, serigraphs, lithographs and relief prints. In 1996, Hall was appointed Lecturer in Printmaking at Charles Darwin University, where he was responsible for running Northern Editions print studio.

In 2001, Hall established the atelier Basil Hall Editions to facilitate workshops in remote Indigenous communities across Australia. Over the past 22 years, Basil Hall Editions has produced more than 1,500 editions for 500 artists, including such leading figures as Gulumbu Yunupingu, Janangoo Butcher Cherel, Fiona Foley and Regina Pilawuk Wilson. Prints from Basil Hall Editions are held in collections around the world, including the National Gallery of Australia, the British Museum and the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth.

The donation of prints from Basil Hall Editions will add scale and depth to UVA’s already renowned collection at Kluge-Ruhe. In choosing Kluge-Ruhe as the recipient of his collection, Hall was driven by a desire to create a world-class center for the study of Indigenous printmaking. As Basil Hall describes:

In 2019, I spoke to Kluge-Ruhe’s director Margo Smith and curator Henry Skerritt. As a result, I have donated the entire Basil Hall Editions Workshop Proof Collection to Kluge-Ruhe. Because I am primarily interested in housing my archive with an institution that will make it readily available for study and viewing, it seems to me that the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is the perfect recipient. It already has a superior and proven track record in this regard. The connection to UVA and the wider public, through its regular programs, lead me to believe that this unique print archive won’t just sit in drawers, but will be examined, explored, exhibited, celebrated and written about. 

Professor Douglas Fordham, Chair of the UVA Department of Art, notes:

The Basil Hall Editions collection is a genuinely transformative gift. Printmaking is a fundamentally collaborative medium, and the history of Aboriginal printmaking is filled with productive collaborations between Aboriginal artists, white allies, and printmaking workshops. Aboriginal printmaking can reveal powerful new histories of Aboriginal modernity, revealing instances of integration into and adaptation within Australian metropolises (including art schools) while artists seek to maintain, uncover, and examine their own Aboriginal cultures and identities.

The donation of prints will be the basis for an exhibition in Kluge-Ruhe’s main exhibition galleries beginning in March 2024, after its current exhibition, Performing Country closes.