KP Collections

The Keeping Place is made up of a number of sub-collections

Paintings by Gordon Syron
Photography by Elaine Syron
Paintings and sculpture by 300+ Aboriginal artists
Traditional Art Work of Desert Artists
Arnhem Land Art & Barks
Contemporary sculptures from Northern Territory
Yidaki Collection

Catalogue number 116

What is important about the Keeping Place is not the physical location where the artworks are displayed or stored, but the fact that they are accessible by all Australians who want to experience the impact of this unique collection of painting, sculpture and photographic work.

1036 Wind Dreaming Mens Corroboree
Catalogue # 1036 Wind Dreaming Men’s Corroboree

The Keeping Place Volunteers Team has a number of projects currently underway:

  • Locating part of the Keeping Place Collection at Ivanhoe in western NSW
  • Centralising storage of a large part of the collection in a secure environmentally suitable facility in Canberra ACT, where a condition survey can be undertaken and informed decisions made about the longterm future of those paintings and sculptures
  • Project Girra Girra – creating an online database of the complete Keeping Place Collection, assisted by one or more multinational sponsors, so that all the works are universally accessible by Indigenous community groups, academics, students and ordinary Australians who want to know more about modern Indigenous history, especially the successes of many Indigenous actors, dancers, singers, artists, photographers and sculptors.
  • Creating prints of a limited number of photographs taken by Elaine Syron for sale via an online shop.
  • Selecting a number of paintings from the collection that can be sold to fund projects that are close the heart of Elaine and Gordon Syron, including an artists retreat at Magnetic Island, QLD.
Gordon Syron, acknowledged as the father of modern urban Aboriginal art said, “White fellas have lots of keeping places all over this country, all we want is this one Keeping Place”

What is the Keeping Place Art Collection?

Gordon Syron began painting in 1972.

This Collection started by Gordon Syron and Elaine Kitchener-Pelot in 1972.  The original name given to the collection was Black Fella’s Dreaming, the story behind the largest collection of Aboriginal art put together by Gordon Syron.

It is the story of a loose cultural movement started in the 1970s by a group of contemporary Aboriginal artists including Gordon Syron, the pioneer of Urban Aboriginal Art.  Using their art as a means of expression, they engaged actively in a quest to make it possible for Aboriginal people to record their own culture.

The Keeping Place Art Collection is still privately owned privately by Gordon and Elaine Syron. However they are keen to see it taken over by a museum, foundation or even a private collector who will commit to making the Keeping Place Collection accessible to Australians and visitors from overseas.

Since its creation the Keeping Place Collection has been often been broken up and housed at many locations in QLD and NSW, including Darlinghurst, Magnetic Island, Bangalow, Katoomba, Redfern, Minto, Greenwich, Wyong, Mosman, Middle Head, Eastwood, Rosebery, Woolloomooloo and Leichhardt.  It has been a very gypsy existence and sadly the constant packing, transport and unpacking again has inficted some damage on a number of the works.

The Keeping Place Collection now contains the work of over 400+ different Aboriginal artists, which makes it a unique record of contemporary Aboriginal art created by them since 1972.

A limited number of Keeping Place works are on extended loan to major supporters at NSW Parliament House, Arts Law Centre in Woolloomooloo, and with private individuals, in acknowledgement of their long-term support for the vision of the Keeping Place.

There are 12 of Gordon’s own paintings in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, and another 4 in the Museum of Sydney, Bridge Street Sydney


History of Keeping Place

In 2002 Chicka Dixon officially opened Black Fella’s Dreaming Museum in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW.  There was a smoking ceremony and a black fellas’ urban corroboree on the street, opposite Darlinghurst High Court, where Gordon Syron was tried and convicted for murder in 1972.

In February 2010, The Keeping Place 1972-2010 exhibition opened at the Australian Museum in Sydney, the third exhibition held by the museum of the Collection’s works since 1998.  This exhibition was curated by Sheryl Connors-Young.

Hear what the Patron the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG said at the opening of the exhibition:

With the Collection’s national acclaim and diversity, it is not surprising that museums of the calibre of the Australian Museum, Sydney, would exhibit works from the Keeping Place Collection.

Highly regarded museums have purchased works from the Keeping Place Collection, including the Museum of Sydney in Bridge Street, the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, and the National Australia Museum in Canberra.

Gordon Syron’s own works were exhibited at the Australian Pavilions at both the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


Gordon Syron, Artist

“My strength in painting is political”, says Syron.  “I use satire and raw imagery to send a message that Australian History has left out Aboriginal people and their stories.  Art is a way to convey and tell these stories.  By turning around the picture – for instance to dress Aboriginal people in Redcoats and black boots and have white people standing naked holding spears on the shore when the first fleet arrived, as in my painting The Black Bastards Are Coming, it makes people understand and comprehend history in a different way.”

The work of Gordon Syron forms less than 3% of the work in the core 547 pieces of the Keeping Place Collection that were valued by Adrian Newstead in 2009.

The Art and Artefacts

In total, the Keeping Place Collection comprises more than 1,500 pieces by many of Australia’s leading contemporary and urban Aboriginal artists, including world-renowned names, such as Clifford Possum, Emily Kngwarreye and Michael Jagamara Nelson.

One important sub-collection is photography by Elaine (Kitchener) Pelot-Syron has taken more than 150,000 historical photographs over the last 4 decades, which documents dance, portraits and landmark events in the evolution of modern Aborginal history.

One category of Elaine Syron’s work is known as “White Art on Black Art”, which consists of photographs by Indigenous and non-Indigenous photographers.  Many of these never-before published photographs record historic events, portraits and Sydney’s history since 1971, which have not been captured by any other single photographer.

Catalogue of the Keeping Place Collection

On 14 May 2010, a catalogue of the 547 major Keeping Place Collection artworks was completed by UNILINC Limited, a not-for-profit organisation, headed by Rona Wade, CEO.


The Collection’s Economic Value

The last comprehensive valuation was completed during 2009 – 2010 by Adrian Newstead, ex-CEO of Deutscher-Menzies Auctioneers, and Director/Owner of the Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery since 1981.

The valuation comprised only 547 artworks extensive artefacts out of a total of over 1500 held by the Keeping Place Collection, including sculptures, rare posters, books and photographs.

Work commenced in early 2015 to update the Catalogue and Valuation, but the fact that the Keeping Place Collection has been spread over 30+ different storage sites has meant that it has been a very slow process.  But the start of centralisation of the Keeping Place Collection paintings in Canberra and the photographs at State Library of NSW in the latter half of 2016 has meant that the rate of cataloguing, photographing and  condition surveying has accelerated dramatically, all thanks to the efforts of dozens of volunteers all over Sydney and in Canberra.

Sub-Collections in the Keeping Place Collection

Desert Art Works

One of the major groups of work within the Keeping Place Collection is known as the Desert Art Works.

The Possum Family, including Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932 – 2002) and Michael Jagamara Nelson of Papunya, NT, sold significant examples of their works into the Keeping Place Collection in the 1980s.

In the 1990s a major group of art works, commonly known as the Body Series, were acquired from Emily Kngwarrewe, her family and her clan at Utopia, Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Barks

Robyn Nganjmirra was the head of the Oenpelli and Injalak clan in NT and sold 2 very large, rare bark paintings into the Keeping Place Collection in the 1990s.


Generating Support for the Keeping Place Art Collection

Managing and protecting a large, extensive art collection is a tiring and demanding workload.

Gordon & Elaine Syron are now in their 70s and have been feeling the responsibility of the Collection weighing them down very heavily.  They are prepared to sell the Keeping Place Collection as a whole, subject to discussions on how a future owner will make the Collection available to members of the public to enjoy it.  They are also prepared to sell sub-collections, such as the Desert Art or the Northern Territory Sculpures.

By purchasing the Keeping Place Collection, a buyer will have a ready-made foundation for an important cultural archive for an Aboriginal Cultural Centre.

A future owner of the Keeping Place Collection will be able to continue the work started almost four decades ago by the Syrons, and which has grown into one the largest collections of Aboriginal art and artefacts in the country.

What makes the Keeping Place Collection so important?

  • It is the largest collection of Aboriginal works in Australia independent of an institution
  • It is curated and owned by an Aboriginal artist
  • It shows the work of 300+ different Aboriginal artists and sculptors
  • The art works tell the story of many aspects of Aboriginal Australia which was left out of the text books of Australian history.

Published Reviews

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John Young
Director Strategy
Keeping Place Project
0407 940 943


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