Barbara Weir

Barbara Weir

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DOB: 1945
Born: Bundy River Station, NT
LANGUAGE GROUP: Alyawarre/Anmatyerre

Barbara Weir was born in the early 1940s at Bundy River Station in the region of Utopia, north east of Alice Springs; her mother the late Minnie Pwerle, renowned Utopia and Australian artist, and her father an Irish station owner Jack Weir.

Being of mixed heritage Barbara was hidden from welfare patrol at a young age by her family, including her Aunty, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Barbara has fond childhood memories living at Utopia with her large extended family, and in some of her works today she will depict the caves where she would collect water with her coolamon.

Her idyllic childhood was disrupted when at the age of ten Barbara was suddenly taken from her family by a welfare patrol near the old Utopia Station homestead, as she was collecting water. She is one of the people known as the "stolen generation". Barbara was taken to Alice Springs, but because she kept speaking her Anmatyerre and Alyawarre tongue, was moved further away to children's homes and foster families around Australia, eventually ending up in Darwin. During these years she was forced to speak English and was told that her mother had passed away. Though she lost contact with her family, she was determined to return to them however she only knew her home as 'Atnwengerrp', the Anmatyerre word for her home. Eventually, this was the only word she could remember in her language.

Barbara married Mervyn Torres and in 1969 they moved to the remote community of Papunya where Mervyn was a field officer. Little did they know that they were about to witness the birth of the Aboriginal Art movement; when the Papunya men commenced painting their stories for an external art market. It was during this time that Mervyn had a fortuitous conversation while in Alice Springs. This chance discussion led to Barbara finding her family.

The reunion was a happy one, but it was marred by the fact that Barbara was unable to communicate with the family, as she had forgotten her language. In 1977 Barbara returned to the land of her birth, with her three children for good. Over the coming years, Barbara had three more children and reclaimed her Anmatyerre and Alyawarre languages. Barbara's children had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by their extended family, understand where they came from, as well as learning the lore. This depth of knowledge arguably explains why Barbara Weir's daughters have become great artists in their own right; they paint with a confidence and assertiveness only possible when there is an intimate knowledge of subject matter.

On returning to her home, Barbara quickly rekindled her unique relationship with Emily Kame Kngwarreye, who was by then a well-known batik artist. The Utopia women were well known for their beautiful batiks, the proceeds from which contributed to the Aboriginal community buying back the region of Utopia in 1974. Barbara Weir was active in the local land rights movement during the 1970s and worked towards regaining Country. At the same time, Barbara became interested in batik, and showed a flair and talent for it. After witnessing the events that took place in Papunya, Barbara made the natural transition to painting in 1988, which coincided with a project from the CAAMA shop which introduced the Utopia Batik Group to painting on canvas with acrylic paints. Early works by Barbara reveal how she experimented with colour and style to tell her stories linked to the land, history and culture. In some instances, earthier tones, overt iconography and dot work float above a black background, while in other examples there are linear motifs of body paint designs that echo the artworks of Barbara's Aunt, fellow esteemed artist Ada Bird.

In the following eight years, Emily Kame Kngwarreye catapulted onto the contemporary art scene and Barbara assisted her aunt navigate through the Western 'Art Business' as well as encouraging other women from her extended family to paint, including her mother Minnie Pwerle.

In 1996, after the death of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Barbara concentrated on developing her skill as an artist and soon attracted the attention of collectors by producing works that were contemporary in style, including her now renowned "Grass Seed" and "Mother's Country" paintings. Barbara is a highly talented, inventive, creative, energetic and hardworking artist, who paints in a number of different styles, pushing her own artistic boundaries in doing so. She enjoys painting in the comfort of her home, where she can be free to intuitively experiment. Recent works have seen Barbara incorporate ash from her country in her paint, resulting in some incredible textures and subtle hues in her work. She also uses ochres from time to time, resulting in innovative and earthy artworks.

Barbara Weir's exhibition history is extensive and anyone who has the pleasure of spending time with Barbara will hear of her vast travels throughout America, Europe and Asia to paint and exhibit her work. Barbara has also been honoured by recognition in numerous art awards, Indigenous and general awards, including being a multiple finalist in the peak Indigenous awards, the Telstra NATSIAA and in the recent 2018 Paddington Art Prize, one of the most prestigous landscape art awards in the country.

In recent years, Barbara has spent much time and effort mentoring, encouraging and supporting her fellow family members as they develop their art careers. This has also seen her step up and play an important part in the evolution and promotion of the industry's sole national body, the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia (AAAA).

In 2019, Barbara was honoured by, together with Adrian Newstead OAM, being appointed the inaugural Patron of the AAAA.

As Barbara nears her 80th year, she shows no signs of slowing down and continues a considerable travel and exhibition schedule. She remains a great inspiration to those around her.


  • Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
  • Art Gallery of Queensland, Brisbane
  • Artbank, Sydney
  • Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane
  • Hank Ebes Collection, Melbourne
  • University of Adelaide, Adelaide
  • AMP Investments Collection, Sydney
  • British Embassy, Canberra
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  • Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
  • Hitachi Collection
  • Macquarie Bank Collection, Sydney
  • Museo Sa Bassa Blanca, Mallorca, Spain
  • Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland

Awards and Recognition

2021 Grace Cossington Smith Art Award - Finalist
2021 Ravenswood Art Prize - Finalist
2020 Calleen Art Award - Finalist
2018 Artwork selected for the British Embassy, Canberra
2018 Paddington Art Prize - Finalist
2009 Top 50 Collectable Artists, Australian Art Collector Magazine
2004 Certificate of Appreciation - in recognition and appreciation of the valuable contributions made by Barbara Weir in development of the promotion of the Commonwealth of Australia - presented by Prime Minister John Howard
2002 19th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
2001 Selected artist to be included in the prestigious YPO Conference in Sydney, organised by Tim Jennings from Mbantua
2000 Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery - Finalist
2000 17th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
1998 15th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist
1997 14th NATSIAA, Darwin - Finalist


Selected Solo Exhibitions

2020 Barbara Weir: Culture + Country, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2012 Barbara Weir, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Latest Works from Barbara Weir, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2010 In the Footprints of Barbara Weir, Central Art, Deloraine
2010 Desert Journeys, DACOU Gallery, Melbourne
2007 Blowing in the Wind, Art Mob, Hobart
2006 Recent Paintings, Gallery Savah, Sydney
2005 Addison Road Gallery, Sydney
2005 Private Exhibition for HRH Prince Charles, Alice Springs
2004 Addison Road Gallery, Sydney
2001 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2000 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2000 Discovery, Gallery Savah, Sydney
2000 Gathering the Past, Redback Art Gallery, Brisbane
1999 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
1999 Dreamworks, Gallery Savah, Sydney
1999 Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1998 Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1997 Australian Gallery of Dreamings, Melbourne
1997 Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney
1997 DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
1996 A Fruitful Seaso, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane

Selected Group Exhibitions

2021 Voyage across Aboriginal Australia - Founders' Favourites, Fondation Burkhardt-Felder Arts et Culture, Moitiers, Switzerland
2021 Of the Land, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2021 Top Ten Artists 2020, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2020 A Vision of Country: Australian Aboriginal Landscapes, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2020 Colours of Spring, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2020 Pointillism Perfection, Art Mob, Hobart
2020 Blue July, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
2020 Director's Choice 2020, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2020 Top Ten - Our Most Popular Artists 2019, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Summer Show & Art Parade, Salt, Queenscliff, VIC
2019 defining tradition | black + white, 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
2019 International Women's Day, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Spring Collection: Exhibition to celebrate our beautiful Spring Collection, Brenda Colahan Fine Art, Sydney
2019 defining tradition | the colurists, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2018 Colours of Spring, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2018 20/20 Vision: 20 Years 20 Women, Brenda Colahan Fine Art, Sydney
2018 Earth's Creation, Emily Kame and Family, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2017 Atnwengerrp Revisited | Family Show and Artist in Residence Programme, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2015 Women of Papunya, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2014 New to View: Utopia, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2013 Desert Rouges, Histoires Aborigenes Gallery, Galerie Art Diaphragme, Auxerre, France
2013 Prendre de la Hauteur, Histoires Aborigenes Gallery, Fort Griffon IUFM FC, Besancon, France
2012 Identites, Histoires Aborigenes Gallery, Toucy, France
2012 Little Gems, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2012 Heirs and Successors, Japingka Gallery, Perth
2011 New Beginnings, Brits Arts and Promotions, Uebach-Palenberg, Germany
2010 Stories from the Centre, Kate Owen Gallery, Sydney
2010 Desert Art from Utopia, DACOU Gallery, Melbourne
2010 Tradition to Modernity: A Showcase of Unique Contemporary Indigenous work from Central Desert Regions, Central Art Deloraine
2010 Artitja: The Gift Collection - Art and Objects: small and affordable, Artitja Fine Art Gallery, Fremantle
2010 The Imprint Utopia Collection, Central Art, Deloraine
2010 McCulloch's Aboriginal Art @ Flinders 2010: A Summer Exhibition from The Lands, Salt Contemporary Art, Queenscliff
2010 Quand Fleurit le Desert Autralien, Dz Galerie, Noumea, New Caledonia
2009 My Country, DACOU Gallery, Melbourne
2009 Utopia, Colours of the Desert, Gongpyeong Art Space in collaboration with Dacou, Australian Embassy in Korea and Crossbay Gallery, Seoul
2009 Janet Holmes a Court Gallery, Perth
2009 A decade of Australia’s indigenous fine art 1999-2009, Salt Gallery, Queenscliff
2008 Utopia Discoveries, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2008 Blue: A Group Exhibition, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2008 Gecko Gallery, Broome.
2008 Walking Together to Aid Aboriginal Health, Shalom Gamarada Aboriginal Art Exhibition, University of NSW, Sydney
2008 Utopia Revisited, NG Art Gallery, Sydney
2008 Dreamings - The Land, Outback Aboriginal Art, Melbourne
2008 Red Rock Gallery, Beijing
2007 DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
2007 Desert Diversity, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2007 New Works from Utopia, Space Gallery, Pittsburgh, USA
2007 Red Rock Gallery, Beijing
2007 Australian Embassy, Washington
2007 Standing on Ceremony, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
2007 Utopia Exhibition, Robert Steele Gallery, New York
2007 APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition with Rio Tinto, FireWorks Gallery Brisbane
2007 Best of the Best, Gallery Framed, Darwin
2007 Lines and Signs, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2006 Utopia, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2006 APS Bendi Lango Art Exhibition, Rio Tinto Offices, Melbourne
2005 Barbara Weir and Daughter, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2004 Evolution of Utopia, Mbantua Gallery Cultural Museum, Alice Springs
2004 Mbantua Gallery, USA exhibition: Portland, Nashville, Knoxville, Hartford, Greenwich, Philadelphia and New York
2004 Addison Road Gallery, Sydney
2004 Spirit and Vision, Sammlung Essl, Austria
2004 Lines IV, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2004 Lines III, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2004 Entry Points, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2004 Utopia: Gloria, Barbara, Minnie, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2003 Contemporary Aboriginal Art Event, Umpqua Bank, Portland, Oregon, USA
2003 The Cove Gallery, Portland, Oregon, USA
2003 Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
2003 New City Merchants, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
2003 Barbara Weir and Emily Kngwarreye, Westside Gallery, Sydney
2003 Creative Collaboration, Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2003 DACOU Gallery, Adelaide
2003 Light over Utopia, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2002 Urban Wine Works, Portland, Oregon, USA
2002 Mary's Wood, Portland, Oregon, USA
2002 The Cove Gallery, Portland, Oregon, USA
2002 Art and Soul Gallery, Nashville, USA
2002 Gallery Savah, Sydney
2002 United - Mother and Daughter, Alison Kelly Gallery, Melbourne
2002 Knut Grothe Galeri, Charlottlenlund, Copenhagen
2002 Queen Victoria Building, Sydney
2002 Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs
2002 Paintings From Utopia, Framed - The Darwin Gallery, Darwin
2002 Mixed Utopia Exhibition, Galerie Le Temps Du Reve, Pomnt-Aven, France
2002 Contemporary Aboriginal Art From The Utopia Region, BMG Art, Adelaide
2002 Generations, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
2002 The Utopia Six, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
2002 A Collectable Aboriginal Art Even, Raintree Gallery, Darwin
2001 Two Women - Dreamings, Dreamtime Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2001 Women Artists of the Australian Desert, Gallery 2021, Auckland, NZ
2001 Desert Colour, My Country, Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery, Darwin
2001 Painting Country, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
2001 Alison Kelly Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Out of Utopia, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
2001 An Art Odyssey, The West End Precinct, Adelaide
2001 Nangara The Ebes Collection, Japanese Museum, Tokyo
2000 Women's Business, Australian Exhibition Centre, Chicago, USA
2000 Mary Place Gallery, Sydney
2000 Installation AMP Building for Sydney Olympics, Sydney
2000 Gordes, Vaucluse, France
2000 Artists of Utopia, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
2000 An Affair to Remember, ArtSauce, Singapore
2000 Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1999 North Shore Fine Art, Sydney
1999 Gallery Savah, Sydney
1999 Caring for Country, Tandanya Cultural Institute, Adelaide
1999 Utopia V, Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1999 Bush Garden, Japingka Gallery, Fremantle
1999 Utopia, BMG Art, Adelaide
1998 Exhibited extensively in Europe including: Art Felchlin, Zurich, Gallery Griffiouen, Belgium, Boomerang Gallery, Amsterdam, Kunsdcentrum Aalst, Belgium, Kunsdcentrum Dendermonde, Belgium, Frank Popko Gallery, Germany, Ebes Collection, Workum, Netherlands
1998 Adelaide Festival Theatre, Adelaide
1998 Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1998 SCECGS Redlands, Sydney
1998 Utopia IV, Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1998 ARTEXPO, New York, USA
1998 Women Painters of the Desert, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane
1997 Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1997 Ten Years On, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
1997 FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
1997 Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1997 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1997 Dreamings in the Desert Artist in Residence Proigramme, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
1997 Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1996 Quadrivium Gallery, Sydney
1996 Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
1996 Gallery Woo Mang and Partners, Paris
1996 Framed Gallery, Darwin
1995 Davis Avenue Gallery, Melbourne
1995 DACOU Gallery, Adelaide