The first two experiences at The Lume featured artworks by Dutch post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh and French impressionists Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and Manet – all significant 19th century artists whose works are some of the most recognisable in the world. But for its third outing, The Lume is changing things up.

Connection, which opens today, features many firsts for the gallery: its first focus on Australian art, its first display of original, physical pieces, and its first use of artists who are still alive. At its core, it’s a celebration of First Nations art, artists and culture.

Nearly 650 paintings and other works by more than 110 artists – including Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tommy Watson, Anna Pitjara, Sarrita King, Lin Onus and plenty of others – have been brought to life by the tech wizards at Grande Experiences.

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Kate Constantine, a Gadigal woman from the Eora Nation who makes neo-contemporary dot paintings under the moniker Konstantina, was approached by fellow artist and exhibition co-curator Wayne Quilliam about being part of the show.

“It had always been a passion project of Wayne, as a photographer and as an artist, to connect at a mass scale our Aboriginal artwork with the masses – not just in white-walled galleries,” she tells Broadsheet. “He was like, ‘It’s going to be visual and it’s going to be light and it’s going to smell nice’, all these things, and I just said ‘Okay’ because I trust inherently somebody with his experience and our friendship.”

At an artists’ preview ahead of the official unveiling, Constantine was moved to tears.

“To see your artworks with the artists that you admire and that you love, that have beautiful stories to tell from different countries and different language groups, and [to] see them all integrated into one platform is just so powerful.”

As you move through the Lume, you’ll see lightning rush through works against a soundscape of thunderstorms, before the screens swiftly turn to landscapes. Black and white portraits of Aboriginal community members are followed by moving desert art. In one interactive room, blue dots depicting water ripple around you.

The exhibition also includes a special tribute to the late Kngwarreye, one of Australia’s most significant artists. The mirrored room is filled with a 53-piece series by the Anmatyerre artist, creating a seemingly endless wall of her work.

And 32 works are featured in the Gallery of Original Art, marking the first time The Lume has exhibited real-life pieces. They’re available to purchase, with royalties going directly to the artists and their families.

Celebrated Bundjalung chef and TV personality Mark Olive is behind the food at Mirri, the in-gallery dining room. His menu features native ingredients like lemon myrtle, river mint, quandong and saltbush, spread across snacks such as crumbed barramundi fingers with finger-lime citrus mayo and mini pavlovas with whipped wattleseed cream and rosella-flower coulis.

“The inspiration for the menu was a theme of earthiness and place,” he tells Broadsheet.
“Hence where the ingredients came from, but also that we have explored and represented a lot of regions within the design of the menu.”

Constantine hopes the exhibition gives the public a better understanding of the breadth and diversity of First Nations art, cultures, Countries and experiences.

“There's no expectation that you have to be massively academically educated or that you have to be able to stand and pontificate in a white room. You can just go and enjoy,” she says. “I want more people to be able to see more of our work, our collective work. Because I think then people will understand it. There [will be] less confusion around who we are as people and what we’ve got to say, if people can actually get there and see us.”