Haute Culture: Russell James’ “Nomad Two Worlds” Back in New York City on Broadway with Hugh Jackman and at CATM Chelsea Gallery

(Nathan Mundraby, Clifton Bieundurry, Donna Karan, Hugh Jackman, and Russell James)

Hugh Jackman’s Back on Broadway show sizzled at the Broadhurst Theatre this past holiday season, reported Playbill: One set of weekly figures in December showed a $1.521m gross (third highest), a median ticket price of $158.53 (the highest), and a house capacity of 102.0%– his revue was certainly no laughing matter!

Complementing Back on Broadway (which ended on New Year’s Day) was an extensive, multi-media collaborative art project, Nomad Two Worlds. Conceived by contemporary art and fashion photographer Russell James, two of the original project’s indigenous Australian artists (Nathan Mundraby and Clifton Bieundurry) appeared in a special “Australia” segment of Jackman’s Broadway show. Coinciding with the Great White Way spectacular, is a limited edition exhibition at CATM Chelsea Gallery. The exhibition focuses on the works of Mundraby and Bieundurry.

The Gallery, designer Donna Karan, and Jackson originally hosted a launch party for the show back in January of 2009. This year marks the second anniversary and first return of Nomad Two Worlds, which runs until January 8, 2012 and benefits the Nomad Two Worlds Foundation. It is slated for a continued private preview thereafter. To celebrate the exhibits’ return, a similar cast of characters toasted the works of art at the CATM Chelsea Gallery in early December. An energetic group of well-knowns packed the space such as: supermodel Adriana Lima, Deborra-Lee Jackman, Douglas Hannant, Fred Schepesi, along with hosts Russell James, Hugh Jackman and Donna Karan.

Adriana Lima and Russell James.

Nomad Two Worlds developed following an admission of guilt by Australia’s prime minister in 2008 to the country’s indigenous people for their “profound grief, suffering and loss” caused by past governments’ culturally destructive policies and actions. Australian-born James set out to create a collection of truly collaborative art, music and film with indigenous Australian artists. The goal was to foster “a powerful expression of partnership and reconciliation through art across deep cultural divides,” read a statement. “Every picture in the collection tells part of a story… of the clash of ancient civilizations with the modern world,” said James. “Whether it’s a person, the ocean, a rock – each photo I take represents something I have seen in the subject, thought about or learned because of it. And each collaborating artist’s creative contribution furthers that story.”

James has since expanded this concept, working with Native American and Haitian artists to include other disadvantaged cultures. This year he established the Nomad Two Worlds Foundation to support indigenous and marginalized communities, raise awareness for the importance of cultural preservation and create opportunities for artists like Mundraby and Bieundurry’s to appear on Broadway.

Nomad Two Worlds incorporates a remarkable collection of photographs ranging from dramatic and breathtaking scenic shots to alluring portraits of models such as Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel and Miranda Kerr, as well as superstar Jackman. The photographs, printed out on canvas, are then embellished with acrylic art reflecting traditional, cultural stories from the Indigenous artists’ point of view that further the narrative and the intent behind James’ photographs. Many of the stories told in the overlay art can be sung – painting and singing are often the way culture, tradition and the story of “family” are handed down from generation to generation.

“Queensland-based Nathan Mundraby and Perth-based Walmajarri man Clifton Bieundurry, are not only incredible visual artists but incredible singers and musicians,” said James.  “At all of our art exhibitions, we do what’s called ‘singing of the paintings,’ so Hugh [Jackman] has seen them both perform many times. He has always been a huge supporter of Nomad Two Worlds, and is deeply influenced by the Australian reconciliation movement and Aboriginal culture. It seemed only natural when he approached us about being involved in the ‘Australia’ segment of his show.”

Nomad Two Worlds has continued to grow and gather additional advocates like the Clinton Global Initiative, Sir Richard Branson, multiple factions of the Australian Government and the world’s leading photographic gallery, Camera Work.  Nomad Two Worlds has earned high praise and international acclaim for its exhibitions in New York, Australia (Perth and Melbourne), Los Angeles and Berlin, its music collaborations with members of the Black Eyed Peas and DJ Paul Oakenfold, and its cultural preservation and educational outreach initiatives.

James has shot for Vanity Fair, W, American Photo and Sports Illustrated, Hermès in association with Guggenheim, as well as captivating advertising campaigns for Rolex, Victoria’s Secret, and Revlon. He is also known for his portrait work of many celebrities, musicians, and supermodels: Scarlett Johansson, Halle Berry, Faith Hill, and Barbara Streisand, to name a few.

Sponsors of the opening included: Balance Water, Camera Work, CATM Chelsea, Penfolds, Ultimat Vodka, Urban Zen, and Virgin Australia.

Nomad Two Worlds is on view and open to the public at CATM CHELSEA Gallery (in association with Camera Work), on 500 West 22nd Street, New York City.