Richard Bell at the Tate Modern and Expo Chicago

Richard Bell is an Australian artist and a member of the Kamilaroi, Kooma, Jiman and Gurang Gurang communities. He is considered a leading contemporary artist in Australia with consistent commercial and institutional shows on the art calendar, recently his work with collective proppaNOW was celebrated in New York, their dynamic output commended as ‘models for political empowerment throughout the world.’ Now, in 2023 he continues his solo practice abroad with work on show at London’s Tate Modern in May and June and a presentation on now at Expo Chicago in the United States.

Expo Chicago, 13-16 April, is comprised of 170 leading international galleries representing 36 countries. Bell is showing a film as part of the events at The Gene Siskel Film Center. He will share ‘You Can Go Now’ which canvasses the impact of his work and ‘speaks to the parallel story of the struggle for First Nations rights in Australia and civil rights movements around the world.’ In review for The Australian, David Stattron wrote, ‘As we approach the referendum on the voice, this film is essential viewing.’ You can stream it now on DocPlay.

His famous and powerful work ‘Embassy’ is discussed in the film. ‘Embassy’ is going to be on view at the Tate Modern in the Turbine Hall from 20 May to 18 June 2023, after being included in the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India. The Tate describes the installation as a ‘public space for listening and telling stories of resistance, survival, displacement and oppression. The tent provides an opportunity to imagine a future where Aboriginal people – and all Indigenous peoples – are leaders in a truly equal society.’ The tent will include protest placards and importantly be a site for discussions between the public, activists and artists.

Image: Richard Bell’s Embassy on show in Venice in 2019

His work ‘Pay the Rent II’ will also be part of the Tate’s programming after being included in Documenta 15, Kassel, Germany. ‘Pay the Rent II’ is a digital ticker of the artist’s calculation of what the British Government owes Indigenous Australians for use of the country between 1788 and 1901, a number which, with interest included, keeps climbing.

Bell explained ‘The reason for [Pay the Rent] is to show that it’s too expensive to play this colonisation game. Don’t do it, because you’ll never be able to pay for it. But we have to be smarter than that. We have to look for a solution, because nobody can ever afford to pay the kind of money that they actually owe.’

Richard Bell, Pay the Rent II, (2022) installed on the roof of the Fridericianum for Documenta 15 in Kassel, Germany.

Bell’s creativity is provocative, political, humorous and a sight to behold. On his overall aims he explains, ‘My shows are always an act of protest. I make art for other Aboriginal people and I want my art to be empowering to them. This body of work reflects a long history of Aboriginal protest. I want audiences to be challenged.’