Emily Kame Kngwarreye

DOB: 1910-1996
BORN: Alhalkere, Soakage Bore, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Anmatyerre
COMMUNITY: Utopia, NT

Featured Artist Emily Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists. Emily was born at the beginning of the twentieth century and grew up in a remote desert area known as Utopia, 230 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs, distant from the art world that sought her work.

Although Emily began to paint late in her life she was a prolific artist who often worked at a pace that belied her advanced age. It is estimated that she produced over 3000 paintings in the course of her eight-year painting career — an average of one painting per day.

She had only sporadic contact with the outside world for virtually two-thirds of her life. It was not until she was about 80 that she became, almost overnight, an artist of national and international standing.

Her remarkable work was inspired by her cultural life as an Anmatyerre elder, and her lifelong custodianship of the women’s Dreaming sites in her clan Country, Alhalkere.

It was in Alhalkere that the essence of her being resided; it was her Dreaming that was the source of the creative power of her knowledge. So profound was her identification with Alhalkere that it infused her life and her belief system and governed her kinship relations and connections with other people. Alhalkere was the source of her paintings — her genius loci. Even physically, Emily’s pierced nose bore homage to the ancestor Alhalkere, a pierced rock standing on the Country of the same name.

Alhalkere was the place and law she continually re-created in her art. Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s visions of Alhalkere are her personal cultural legacy to the world. Whenever Emily was asked to explain her paintings, regardless of whether the images were a shimmering veil of dots, a field of ‘dump dump’ dots, raw stripes seared across the surface or elegant black lines, her answer was always the same:

“Whole lot, that’s whole lot, Awelye (my Dreaming), Arlatyeye (pencil yam), Arkerrthe (mountain devil lizard), Ntange (grass seed), Tingu (Dreamtime pup), Ankerre (emu), Intekwe (favourite food of emus, a small plant), Atnwerle (green bean), and Kame (yam seed). That’s what I paint, whole lot.”

The enactment of these strong cultural connections to her community and Country through kinship ties, ancestral history and law was an everyday practice that informed her art, making her life and art inseparable.

The National Gallery of Australia ‘NGA’ is holding a Major Exhibition of Emily Kame Kngwarraye’s works from  2 Dec 2023 to 28 Apr 2024. Link to Exhibition

Wheelchair Accessible

Link to  National Museum of Australia

Great Article in Financial Times “In praise of Australian Aboriginal Art – ‘the oldest surviving culture in the world’       Link to Article

  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  • The Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
  • Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
  • Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
  • Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin
  • Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
  • Museum of Victoria, Melbourne
  • ATSIC Collection, Canberra
  • Kaplan and Levi Collection, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
  • The Araluen Centre of Arts and Entertainment, Alice Springs, NT
  • Campbelltown City Art Gallery, Sydney
  • The Holmes a Court Collection, Heytesbury
  • Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
  • Artbank, Sydney
  • Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
  • University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • University of Sydney Union, Sydney
  • University of Wollongong Art Museum, NSW
  • University of New England, NSW
  • Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
  • Allen, Allen and Hemsley, Sydney
  • BP Australia
  • Transfield Collection, Sydney
  • Dr Peter Elliot Collection, Sydney
  • Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
  • Allen Allen and Hemsley, Sydney
  • Delmore Collection, Alice Springs
  • The Luczo Family Collection, USA
  • Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand
  • The Kasumi Co. Collection, Japan
  • Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica
  • K.L.M. Royal Dutch Airlines, Amsterdam, Holland
  • Chartwell Collection, New Zealand
  • Donald Kahn Collection, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Miami
  • The Vatican Collection, Vatican City
  • TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, VIC
  • Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, La Grange, Motiers, Switzerland
  • Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, USA
  • Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands

2009 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2005 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2000 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
1992 Australian Artists Creative Fellowship

Selected Solo Exhibitions
2020 Emily Kame Kngwarreye STRONG – a tribute, Utopia Art, Sydney
2020 Emily Kame Kngwarreye, D’Lan Contemporary at High Line Nine Gallery, New York
1998-99 Major survey exhibition ‘Emily Kame Kngwarreye “Alhalkere” Paintings from Utopia’, Queensland Art Gallery; The Art Gallery of NSW; National Gallery of Victoria
1997 Robert Steele Gallery, New York
1997 Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1997 DACOU Aboriginal Gallery, Adelaide
1996 Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1996 Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane
1996 Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
1996 Framed Gallery, Darwin
1995 William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
1995 Parliament House, Canberra
1995 DACOU Aboriginal Gallery, Adelaide
1995 William Mora Galleries, Melbourne
1995 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1994 Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London
1994 Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1993 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1991 Eastern Desert Art, Brisbane
1991 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1990-97 Utopia Art Sydney
1990-93 Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1990 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1990 First solo exhibition, Utopia Art Sydney

Selected Group Exhibitions
2021 Abstraction, Utopia Art, Sydney
2021 SIGNIFICANT, D’Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2021 Voyage across Aboriginal Australia – Founders’ Favourites, Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland
2021 The Women’s Show | 15th Anniversary Exhibition, Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
2021 We Choose to Challenge, Coo-ee Fine Art Gallery, Sydney
2021 Big Names Little Paintings, Cooee Art Gallery, Sydney
2020 From Little Things Big Things Grow, Kluge-Ruhe Collection, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA
2020 Desert Painters of Australia – Two Generations, Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong
2020 Colours of Spring, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2020 Know My Name – Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
2020 Important Australian Paintings, Philipp Bacon Galleries, Brisbane
2020 Still in the Desert, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
2020 Reflections on Emily and Papunya, High Line Nine Galleries, New York
2020 Mapa Wiya (Your Map’s Not Needed): Australian Aboriginal Art from the Fondation Opale, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX, USA
2020 Knowing my Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, Australian National Gallery, Canberra
2019 Tiempo de Sonar, Museo Nacional de las Culturas del Mundo, Mexico-City, in cooperation with Coo-ee Gallery, Sydney
2019 Beyond Time, Australian Aboriginal Art, Booker Lowe Gallery, Houston, TX, USA
2019 Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, Sydney
2019 Desert Painters of Australia, Larry Gagosian Gallery, New York, USA – from the Steve Martin & Anne Springfield Collections and Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia, USA
2019 Significant, D’Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2018 Earth’s Creation, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2018 Painting on Country – Utopia Artists, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle, WA
2018 Beyond the Veil, Olsen Gruin, New York
2018 Significant, D’Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2018 20/20 Vision: 20 Years 20 Women, Brenda Colahan Fine Art, Sydney
2017 A SWEEP continues, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2017 A SWEEP: Old & New Works, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2016 Important Australian Indigenous Art , D’Lan Contemporary, Melbourne
2011 Up Close and Personal: works from the collection of Dr Peter Elliott AM, S. H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2010 Desert Country, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
2010 Minnie Pwerle & Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Gooch’s Utopia: collected works from the Central Desert, Flinders University touring exhibition, Art Gallery of Macquarie University, Sydney
2009 Size Matters, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney, NSW
2009 Mythology & Reality: Contemporary Aboriginal Art From The Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, VIC
2006 The Chroma Collection, Art Gallery of Macquarie University, Sydney
2006 Aboriginal Art, Art Gallery of Macquarie University, Sydney
2003 Minimal Fuss Featuring Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tony Tuckson & Minnie Pwerle, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2003 Significant Tilt: Art and the Horizon of Meaning, Art Gallery of Macquarie University, Sydney
1999 Eternal Lin Onus, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Rover Thomas & Johnathan Brown
Kumintjara, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
1997 Fluent, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Judy Watson, Venice Biennale, Italy
1996 Spirit and Place, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
1996 Eye of the Storm: Eight Contemporary Indigenous Australian Artists, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1996 Dots, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1995 Place and Perception: New Acquisitions, Parliament House Art Collection, Parliament House, Canberra
1994 Power of the Land: Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1993-94 travelling to numerous state and regional galleries in NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania
1993-94 Flash Pictures: by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1991 Through Women’s Eyes, ATSIC travelling exhibition
1991 Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
1990 Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection, travelling to Boston, Minneapolis, Oregon, Missouri; Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
1989 Mythscapes: Aboriginal Art of the Desert, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
1989 Art from Utopia, Austral Gallery, St Louis, USA
1989 Aboriginal Art from Utopia, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne
1988 Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Utopia Art Sydney
1988 A hanging Relationship, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney
1987 Utopia Women’s Batik Group, in Australia and abroad

Emily Kngwarreye
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