Aboriginal modernism? Two histories, one painter



Publication Details

McLean, I. A. (2008). Aboriginal modernism? Two histories, one painter. In M. Neale (Eds.), Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye (pp. 23-29). Canberra: National Museum of Australia.


ANMATYERRE ELDER Emily Kame Kngwarreye became an immediate art world sensation because, as art historian Terry Smith has observed, she was' an outstanding abstract painter, certainly amongst the best Australian artists, arguably among the best of her time'. There was also another reason: timing. The year 1989 is most remembered for the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and, with it, the seemingly implacable divisions of the Cold War period. On the other side of the world, in Utopia, an even more impenetrable and deeply rooted divide was bridged. An Anmatyerre elder who had lived all of her 80-odd years in remote Australia, oblivious to Western modernism and its art world values, suddenly began making paintings that not only looked like modernist art but were also ranked with the best of it. Both of these events were early signs of the new globalised world we now live in.

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