Report Michael Cave
The senior Yolngu artist, Wandjuk Marika, once told Australia's leading Aboriginal art expert, Ms Jennifer Isaacs, that his paintings were not for his personal pleasure: they were for the transmission of meaning, knowledge and power.
"There is the story I am telling you - special, sacred, important." He said. "The land is not empty. The land is full of knowledge, full of story, full of goodness, full of energy, full of power. Earth is our mother. The land is not empty."
It is the connection with the land and its spirit that has fascinated Ms Isaacs for 30 years as she has established a career as a writer, curator and manager of aboriginal art.
Six years ago she was contacted by members of the Myer family, Mr. Carillo Gantner and Mr. Baillieu Myer, who were interested in putting together a collection of contemporary Aboriginal art.
Over the next four years, she traveled from the desert to the Kimberley and the tropical Top End in search of the best examples of Aboriginal art she could find. The result is Spirit Country, a collection of almost 100 pieces including paintings, carvings and fibre craft that provide a contemporary slice of Aboriginal art at a time of dramatic change.
The collection was first shown at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco in 1999 to commemorate the arrival in Australia of the patriarch of the Myer family, Mr. Sidney Myer.
On Friday night Mr. Baillieu Myer gave the collection - recognised as one of the most significant Aboriginal art collections in the country and believed to be worth between $500,000 and $700,000 - to the Museum Victoria.
"This is a snapshot of Aboriginal art in Australia at the time it was collected" he said. "Aboriginal art is linked with religion and the land and the common theme through this collection is the spirit of the land. I hope it will provide insights into both the land and the spirit of the Aboriginal people."
The collection was seen by 50,000 people in San Francisco. It will leave Melbourne next month for Brisbane, then Shanghai and Osaka. Among those to visit the exhibition in Melbourne was Prince Andrew, who asked Ms Isaacs to help him make his own Aboriginal art purchase.
The president of the Museums Board of Victoria, Mr. Howard Mitchell, said he was delighted by the donation.