Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

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DOB: c.1910 - 1996
Born: Alhalkere, Soakage Bore, NT

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born around 1910 at Alhalkere (Soakage Bore). Emily is an Eastern Anmatyerre speaker and one of the senior artists of the Utopia-n Art Movement. She was adopted by Jacob Jones an important lawman in the Anmatyerre community and worked as a stock hand on pastoral properties in this area, showing her forceful independence. At this time women were only employed for domestic duties.

Emily, like many other women at Utopia moved into painting with acrylics during the summer of 1988-89 with 'A summer Project'. Emily moved happily into the new medium from her work in batik on silk as painting allowed her to explore techniques and vision with her artistic expression. Her painting reflects the layered transparency of batik, but her colour is translucent and has been built up through many touches of paint which overlap and meet to create an illusion of depth and movement.

Although her works relate to the modern art tradition, this resemblance is purely visual. The emphasis on Emily's paintings is on the spiritual meaning, based in the tradition of her people. At first she painted aspects of her culture that is sacred, falling foul of the tribal elders. That is when she moved into painting her culture as a whole. Though many Aboriginal paintings are focused on Dreamings, Emily chose to present a very broad picture of the land and how it supports their way of life. These images embrace the whole life story of myth, seeds, flowers, wind, sand and 'everything'.

"Whole lot, that's the whole lot. Awelye (my Dreamings), Alatyeye (pencil yam), Arkerrthe (mountain devil lizard), Ntange (grass seed), Tingu (a Dreamtime pup), Ankerre (emu), Intekwe (a favorite food of emus, a small plant), atnwerle (green bean), and Kame (yam seed). That's what I paint; the whole lot."

The form that these take in her paintings are lively and moving. Colours merge and change form to communicate a strong cosmological message. She has gone from particular subjects to show abstraction of her complete world, moving her beyond her cultural roots.

Emily is one of the most successful artists to come out of Utopia and is arguably amongst the most important Australian painters of the last decade. Emily, in her 80th year was described by the art collector, Michael Hollows, as being one of the most unusual and graphic of all Australia's renowned Aboriginal artists.

Her work is featured in all Australian state galleries and most reputable private collections in Australia, and is seen regularly in exhibitions and collections around the world. A host of solo exhibitions in the 90's has provided Emily with a significant plateau of fame, exceeding that of most Aboriginal artists of her time.

Emily's gift as an artist has touched many people but it was her personal presence that left the greatest impact. The Hollow family had the privilege of knowing Emily on a personal level, being able to watch her paint and talk to her about her own opinions of fame.

On the 2nd of September 1996 Emily passed away, a great loss to the art world and those people who knew her personally or through her paintings.


  • 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
  • Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands

Awards and Recognition

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, 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:

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 Know My Name, oOh!media and National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
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
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
2017 A SWEEP continues, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
2017 A SWEEP: Old & New Works, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
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
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
2003 Minimal Fuss Featuring Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tony Tuckson & Minnie Pwerle, FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane
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