A Q&A with Tony Albert

by Chris Lorimer

Over the past 10 years, Tony Albert (Girramay, Yidindji and Kuku Yalanji) has achieved extraordinary visibility and much critical acclaim for his visual art practice. Examining the legacy of racial and cultural misrepresentation, particularly of Australia’s Aboriginal people, Albert has developed a universal language that seeks to rewrite historical mistruths and injustice. His work has won prestigious awards, prizes and commissions and can be seen across Australia in major national and international museums including the National Gallery of Australia; the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art—Queensland Art Gallery.

Our recent collaboration with this renowned Australian artist, launched on pre-order during NAIDOC Week earlier this year, is now in store.  Read on for some insight, in his own words, about his process and our collaboration. 

Hi Tony, having launched your first collection with us, what are the key things you want our audience to know about the items we've made together?

I am a huge fan of artist merchandise and love incorporating artists' objects functionally in my life. I like that objects of use can be infused with artistic imagery or ideas to create an entirely new relationship. I guess there is an interesting push and pull for me, given that much of my work comes from souvenir objects. I would like my collaboration with this first collection to be seen as fun and playful and an opportunity to engage further. 

Do you have a favourite item from the collection, and why?

I love the Abstract Aboriginal Art VI Floor Rug as it is an idea that came out of left field. Third Drawer Down challenged me to think of unique concepts that stretched further than my initial ideas. The pairing of the rug and the abstract image is something I would have never considered, and it works so well. I want to keep one for myself. 

Can you share any stories behind the symbols used for any of the pieces?

The Ashtray works (used in the Mid Century Modern Coaster Set) have always resonated so strongly with me. Ever since I decided to do a series solely with Ashtrays, they have seemingly consumed me on a different level than the other objects in my collection. A funny anecdote attached to the series is because I use second hand ashtray and fabrics for the photographs - the cigarettes were actually the most expensive part of the artwork to purchase. 

What excited you about taking on this project and working with Third Drawer Down?

I love art gift shops, and the things you can find there. I have always been interested in what Third Drawer Down does and have many of their artist collaborations at home. I was so excited when they connected with me with the opportunity to do something. 

How important is Art in your life, and what role does it play?

Art can change the world - it encompasses my life every day, and I am so grateful for that. 


Explore the entire Tony Albert collection HERE