This place boasts that it is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal Art. According to the brochure, the museum was established through a gift by German-American businessman, John W. Kluge in 1997. Kluge began his collection in 1988 and compiled one of the finest private collections in the world focusing on contemporary works from Arnhem Land and the Western Desert. Kluge was a TV mogul, founder of Metromedia and was once the richest person in the United States in 1990 who passed away in Charlottesville in 2010.
In 1993, Kluge purchased the art collection of Edward L. Ruhe whose library and archives comprise the core of the Kluge-Ruhe Study Center. Unfortunately, during my visit a museum staff meeting was being held in the archive library and I wasn’t able to view the collection there.
Australian Aboriginal artists are invited to the museum to exhibit their work and engage directly with the University of Virginia community and the public.
Megan, a global community art major at the University of Virginia held down the visitor desk and was very knowledgeable about the artists and collections. She told me the main gallery was unavailable because a new exhibit was being set up for an end of week opening. She did invite me to a grand opening social gathering to announce the new exhibit. She said that photos were okay, but no flash.
The first collection was that of Carol McGregor entitled “Repositories and Recognition.” Carol is a Wathaurung woman who is also of some Scottish descent. The Wathaurung people were located in the areas around modern day Melbourne, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. She displayed Aboriginal hanging cloths, aprons, clothing and possum skins which were widely used back in the day.
McGregor resided on the grounds in the Guest House with a Silo during a period of her exhibit, but had left when I was there for my visit.
Also on display were the works of Reko Rennie entitled “Patternation.” Rennie belongs to the Kamilaori people from the New South Wales area. I photographed a few other works in the new exhibit, but the artist and title tags had yet to be hung.
In the entrance hall is some artwork poster boards announcing artists who have or will be exhibiting their artwork like Reko Rennie, Samantha Hobson and Wandjuk Marika.
The museum has free admission and parking and is located at 400 Worrell Drive, Charlottesville Virginia (know to locals as Pantops Mountain). Most travelers will find this museum is only 5 minutes off Interstate 64 and easy to locate and park. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM, Sunday 1PM to 5PM, closed on Monday and guided tours are every Saturday at 10:30AM.