Indigenous Art

Kade McDonald of Hanging Valley

Jessica Booth and Laetitia Prunetti 5
Thursday 15th June 2017

Today our columnists Jessica Booth and Laetitia Prunetti of Willie Weston chat with gallerist Kade McDonald, who runs Hanging Valley, a contemporary art pop-up gallery supporting Indigenous artists, and touring their work throughout the country and abroad.

Kade worked in Yirrkala in the Northern Territory for six years before returning to Melbourne, and is just back from a US trip with Wukun Wanambi and Yinimala Gumana, where they have been working together on a ‘monumental touring exhibition’.


Kade McDonald recently returned to Melbourne after nearly six years living and working in Yirrkala, north-east Arnhem Land, where he was coordinator at renowned Indigenous art centre Buku-Larrnggay Mulka. His experiences in the NT gave him an incredible insight into the diversity and vibrancy of contemporary Indigenous art practice. He arrived home galvanised to create a new platform to explore both Indigenous and non-Indigenous contemporary art – ‘something that would make some noise within the industry,’ he describes.

Before taking a leap of faith and moving his partner and two kids, Iggy and Sailor, to a remote community at the top of Australia, Kade ran his own cafe in Northcote, Palomino, and was a partner in the bar Joe’s Shoe Store, also in Northcote, as well as the restaurant Piano Piano in Brunswick East. As Kade puts it, he’d made an ‘odd transition’, although, in his earlier days Kade was a founding director of artist-run initiative Bus Projects, so his curatorial roots run deep.

Fast forward to now, and Kade is the man behind Hanging Valley, a nimble, multi-faceted art incubator and consultancy with no fixed address and a remit to present the work of diverse practitioners in varied formats to ‘an audience starving for access to great works’.

‘I’m interested in the presentation of good contemporary art, regardless of its origins. I wanted to re-connect with my Bus colleagues and with the people and art I had grown to know and appreciate in my time working with communities,’ says Kade. ‘I’m really enjoying being that conduit.’

Hanging Valley offers Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists ‘a unique spread…not only commercial shows but also skills development and major partnerships with institutions across the globe’. It operates as a pop-up of sorts – Kade prefers ‘finding a space to suit the show and the artist and… the viewer experiencing a new location and discovery for every show’. So far he has presented shows at No Vacancy and Chapman & Bailey in Melbourne, Praxis Artspace in Adelaide and RAFT South in Hobart.

Kade had a very full calendar in 2016 – ‘possibly too full’ – so this year he’s focusing on producing fewer, more significant shows. He’s just returned from the US with Wukun Wanambi and Yinimala Gumana, two talented curators and artists from Yirrkala. Together they are embarking upon a ‘monumental touring exhibition’ showcasing seven decades of Yirrkala bark painting, in collaboration with the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Kade, Wukun and Yinimala spent a month researching the collections of The Smithsonian (Washington DC) and the American Museum of Natural History (New York), assessing and selecting works dating back to the 1940s. “The project, titled Madayin, will consume a huge part of my life for the next few years!” Madayin will tour the USA from 2020.

Look out for upcoming Hanging Valley ventures – Kade has few on the boil in the US and NZ, and is working on a residency / exchange project with Durrmu Arts in Peppimenarti, NT. Hanging Valley is certainly one to watch.

*The authors acknowledge and recognise the diversity and distinctness of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For brevity, however, the term ‘Indigenous’ will be used throughout this column when referring broadly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and artists.

Wukun Wanambi and Yinimala Gumana, two talented curators and artists from Yirrkala, who have just returned from a trip to the US with Kade. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

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