Article in the Australian about the Emily Kame Kngwarreye exhibition in Japan.

Quoted from the article:

Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye opened this week at the National Museum of Art in Osaka and in late May will move to the National Art Centre in Tokyo, a grandly scaled new gallery that drew three million visitors in its first year.

One hundred twenty paintings, including all the characteristically vast “Emily” masterpieces, have been gathered from 65 collections for 14 weeks’ viewing at two of Japan’s five national galleries.

That kind of exposure costs about $2 million, funding and access most promoters and artists can only dream about. It’s the product of a unique public-private co-operation between Australian and Japanese fine arts institutions, governments, collectors and corporate sponsors.

Kngwarreye has been seen abroad before, notably at the 1997 Venice Biennale, but never on this scale, nor has any other Australian artist, says National Museum of Australia curator Margo Neale.

Japan is also an opportunity to lift Kngwarreye’s best work clear of the domestic Aboriginal art context into a realm her admirers say it belongs: among master modernists, particularly the New York school of abstract expressionists, including Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

“It’s very important to break down this stereotype that she’s going to be a tribal Aboriginal primitive painter,” says Neale, the acknowledged keeper of the Kngwarreye flame.

“That’s not how she’s being billed here … while her work is deeply rooted in the ancient traditions of herculture, it reaches the heights of the best contemporary abstraction in the world.”

NMA Osaka director Akira Tatehata, a fervent admirer who worked doggedly for a decade to bring the exhibition into being, calls Kngwarreye “the impossible modernist”.