Minnie Pwerle

DOB: c.1920 – 2006
BORN: Utopia, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Anmatyerre/Alyawarre

Minnie Pwerle

Minnie Pwerle

The extraordinarily powerful and prolific artist, Minnie Pwerle, was born in 1910 in Utopia; in bush country located about 350 kilometers North East of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. She was to become, along with her contemporary, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, one of Australia’s greatest female Aboriginal artists, and upon her death in 2006, she was to be mourned by Aboriginal art lovers all over the world.

Brought up in a family of large families, Minnie had five siblings and went on to mother seven children herself. She grew up with the support of her blood family and her wider skin family in Atnwengerrp country, belonging to the Anmatyerre and Alyawarre tribes.

Her art’s source and great inspiration came from her involvement in traditional Aboriginal ceremonies and rituals, where she was responsible for applying the all-important body paint designs to participants in women’s ceremonies.: This was a paste made from the multi-coloured earth found in traditional ochre pits and ground with animal fats or oils into a ‘paint’. The women’s upper bodies (arms, chest, and back) were then prepared by smearing them with animal fats. Then, the coloured paste was applied in the form of intricate patterns and symbols appropriate to the various ceremonies about to be performed. The symbols and patterns Minnie used were rooted in the Aboriginal people’s ancient creation stories (Dreamings) and were rich with history and meaning.

In the 1980s, when Minnie was already in her 70s, she took another step towards her fame as an artist. A batik project had been introduced in Utopia, and up to 80 Aboriginal women at a time participated in it. Minnie was one of them. It was her first involvement with creative activity outside her traditional role as a mother, family member, gatherer of food, and, of course, traditional ceremony.

She was now just a step away from becoming a household name artist. Another artist, Lindsay Bird Mpetyane, influenced the women in the batik project to try painting on canvas using acrylic paint. Minnie took to it straight away, drawing on her experience as a body painter in applying paint and design and creating designs involving her traditional stories and iconography.

Minnie was now in her 80’s, but her work was strong, confident, painterly and immensely striking at once. Traditional iconography took on a new life under her brush, and the wild and joyful canvases that are her trademark began to catch the eye of the art market, not only in Australia but around the world. Minnie became a master of pattern, movement, colour and uncompromising brush strokes that all came together in an astounding and prolific outburst of creativity.

Those who diminished the value of her work in proportion to her output were to regret their point of view, for Minnie’s work is iconic Australian Indigenous art. Although some of her decendants have adapted and passed on the tradition, Minnie was the original talent and the original voice. Her work is powerful and unique, setting her apart from the rest.

Minnie Pwerle’s paintings are now held in museums and exhibited in galleries worldwide, and they form an essential part of any serious Aboriginal Art collection. She died in her 90’s, still painting to the very end, and is one of the greatest Australian Aboriginal artists.


  • Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  • Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, CA, USA
  • Kreglinger Collection, Antwerp, Belgium
  • Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands
  • Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
  • AMP Art Collection, Sydney
  • Fred Torres Collection, Sydney
  • Pat Corrigan Art Collection
  • John McBride Collection
  • La Trobe University Collection, Sydney
  • Mbantua Collection, Alice Springs
  • The Luzco Family Collection, USA

Awards and Recognition

2021 Minnie’s artworks feature again in the reenactment of ‘Badu Gili’, a nightly year-round sunset projection onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House
2017 Minnie’s artworks feature in ‘Badu Gili’, a nightly year-round sunset projection onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House
2008 Atnwengerrp: Land of Dreaming, Minnie Pwerle carpet launch, Designer Rugs Showroom, Sydney
2005 22nd NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist
2004 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2002 19th NATSIAA, Darwin – Selected Entrant
2001 18th NATSIAA, Darwin – Finalist

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2021 Remembering Minnie | 15 years on, Artmob, Hobart
2015 Minnie, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Body Lines, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2008 Minnie Pwerle – Body Paint, DACOU, Melbourne
2006 Memorial Exhibition, Gallery Savah, Sydney
2003 Art & Soul Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
2002 Recent Paintings, Gallery Savah, Sydney
2002 Minnies Country, DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
2002 Awelye Atnwengerrp, DACOU Gallery, Adelaide

Selected Group Exhibitions:

2021 Desert Colours 2021, Incinerator Art Space, Sydney
2021 Body Line, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
2021 We Choose to Challenge, Coo-ee Fine Art Gallery, Sydney
2020 Still in the Desert, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
2019 International Women’s Day, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Large Showroom; Large Works, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2019 Desert Colours: Central Australian painting from the Collection, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
2019 Defining Tradition | the colourists, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Matches 6 – Group Exhibition – Featuring Barbara Weir, Ian Bettinson, Jack Britten, Lilly
Kelly Napangardi, Minnie Pwerle, Tony Tuckson & Yvonne Mills-Stanley, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2018 Earth’s Creation 2: Emily Kame Kngwarreye & Family, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2018 Delmore Gallery: Utopia Women, Merricks Art Gallery, Merricks
2018 Utopia Exhibition of 4 Generations, One Rundle Trading Co., Adelaide
2017 Gems from the Stockroom, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2017 A SWEEP continues, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2010 Utopia, DACOU, Melbourne
2010 The Pwerle Sisters, DACOU Australia & DACOU Melbourne
2010 The Australian Indigenous Art Market Top 100 Exhibition, Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery, Sydney
2010 Minnie Pwerle and Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Desert Rhythms, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2009 Utopia – Colours of the Desert, Gongpyeong Art Space in conjunction with DACOU, the Australian Embassy in Korea and Crossbay Gallery, Seoul
2009 A decade of Australia�s indigenous fine art 1999-2009, Salt Gallery, Queenscliff, VIC
2009 Size Matters, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2008 Utopia Revisited, NG Art Gallery, Chippendale
2008 EWB Elements, travelling group exhibition, all major cities of Australia, DACOU, Melbourne, in conjunction with Dreamtime Art
2008 Emily and Her Legacy, Hillside Gallery, Tokyo, with Coo-ee Art Sydney in conjunction with the landmark retrospective exhibition Utopia – the Genius of Emily Kngwarreye at the National Art Centre, Tokyo
2008 Colours of Utopia, Gallery Savah, Sydney
2008 Atnwengerrp – Land of Dreaming, Minnie Pwerle carpet launch, Designer Rugs Showroom, Sydney
2007 Utopia in New York, Robert Steele Gallery, New York
2007 Treasures of the Spirit, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
2007 Standing on Ceremony, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
2007 New Works from Utopia, Space Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
2007 Desert Diversity, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2007 Australian Embassy, Washington
2007 APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition with Rio Tinto, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2006 The Pwerle Sisters, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2005 Utopia Revealed, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2005 Small Wonders, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2005 Shalom, University of NSW, Shalom Department, Sydney
2004 Utopia: Gloria, Barbara, Minnie, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2004 Divas of the Desert, Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs
2003 My Grandmother and Me, World Vision, Walkabout Gallery, Sydney
2003 Minnie Pwerle & Mitjili Napurrula, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2003 Group Exhibition, Art & Soul Gallery in conjunction with Mbantua Gallery, Nashville
2003 Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Mbantua Gallery, Umpqua Bank, Portland
2003 Art from the Dreamtime, Portland Art Museum in conjunction with Mbantua Gallery, Portland, Oregon, USA
2003 Minimal Fuss Featuring Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tony Tuckson & Minnie Pwerle, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2002 Utopia, Galerie Le Temps du Reve, Pont-Aven, France
2002 Urban Wineworks Gallery in cooperation with Mbantua Gallery, Portland, Oregon, USA
2002 United – Mother and Daughter, Minnie Pwerle and Barbara Weir, Alison Kelly Gallery, Armadale
2002 The Utopia Six, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2002 Paintings from Utopia, Framed, Darwin
2002 Mixed Utopia exhibition at Knut Grothe Galeri, Charlottlenlund, Copenhagen, Denmark
2002 Minnie’s Country, DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
2002 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002 In the Cove, Carriage House Gallery, Portland, Oregon, USA
2002 Heart and Soul Gallery in conjunction with Mbantua Gallery, Nashville
2002 Generations Utopia, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2002 Gallery Savah, Sydney
2002 Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs
2002 Contemporary Aboriginal Art From The Utopia Region, BMGART, Adelaide
2002 Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2002 A Collectable Aboriginal Art Event, Raintree Gallery, Darwin
2002 BIG COUNTRY small worlds, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2001 Women Artists of the Australian Desert, Gallery 2021, Auckland, New Zealand
2001 Small Stories: Minnie Pwerle, Mary Pantjiti McLean, Tumaru Purlykumunu, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2001 Group exhibition, San Anselmo, CA, USA.
2001 Dreamtime Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
2001 Desert Colour- My Country, Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin
1999 My Dreaming, Redrock Gallery, Melbourne

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