Ada Bird Petyarre was born on the old Utopia station at Atangkere c.1930 and passed away in early 2008. She was an Anmatyerre speaker and a significant Elder of one of the most important movements which has emerged from desert painting, the Utopia Women. Her country was Atnangkere and she painted the Arnkerrthe (Mountain Devil Lizard), Engcarma (Bean), Unyara (Emu), Annlara (Pencil Yam), Kadjera (Grass Seeds), and Elaitchurunga (Small Brown Grass) Dreamings that she shares with Gloria Petyarre and Emily Kame Kngwarreye and other female artists from the Utopia region. Ada’s style was unique, reflecting her culture and her personality. Her talent was obvious, and she left a legacy of works in many different designs, some featuring strong bright colours and others so beautifully delicate.

 

Ada formerly resided at Mulga Bore (Akaye Soakage) but spent her later years in care in Alice Springs. She was involved with the Utopia Women’s Batik group since its interception in the late ’70s. Ada began painting in 1988 with CAAMA (Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) Summer Project. In late 1989 the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra acquired a major canvas, and the addition of her works to many public and private collections followed. The German filmaker Wim Wenders acquired one of her batiks and gave Ada a role in one of his films, partially shot in Central Australia.

 

Her work features on the cover of “Utopia – A Picture Story”, a publication based on an exhibition of 88 works on silk by the Utopia artists that toured Eire and Scotland; and is also featured in The Art of Utopia.

 

Ada Bird Petyarre is recognised as being one of the leading artists to have emerged from Utopia and her works are held in major collections in Australia and Internationally.

 

 

Selected Solo & Group Exhibitions

 

1988

• Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Utopia Art Sydney

• Time Before Time, Austral Gallery, St. Louis, USA

 

1989

• Utopia Art Sydney

• Utopia Batik, Araluen Centre for the Arts, Alice Springs

• Utopia Women´s Paintings. The First Works on Canvas. A Summer Project, 1988-89, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney

• Utopia Women, Coventry Gallery, Sydney

 

1989 – 91

• Utopia – A Picture Story, Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide; The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin; The Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork; Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick; Meat Market Gallery, Melbourne

 

1990

• Utopia Art Sydney

• A Portfolio of Australian Women Artists, Macquarie Gallery, Sydney

• Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Robert Holmes à Court Collection, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University; James Ford Bell Museum, University of Minnesota; Lakewook Center for the Arts, Lake Oswego, USA

• Utopia Art Sydney

• Utopia Artists, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne

 

1991

• 8th National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

• Aboriginal Women’s Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

• Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

1992

• Modern Art – Ancient Icon, The Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings

 

1992 – 93

• New Tracks Old Land: An Exhibition of Contemporary Prints from Aboriginal Australia, USA and Australia

 

1993

• 10th National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

• Araluen Centre for the Arts, Alice Springs

• Tjukurrpa. Desert Dreamings – A Survey of Central Desert Art 1971-1993, Art Gallery of Western Australia

 

1993 – 94

• Aratjara. Art of the First Australians, Art Collection North Rhine-Westphalia, Duesseldorf, Germany; Hayward Gallery, London, Great Britain; Louis IANA Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

 

1994

• Power of the Land. Masterpieces of Aboriginal Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

• Yiribana, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

1997

• Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer, Germany

 

1998

• Art Gallery Kunsthuys, The Netherlands

• Art Centre, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

• Culture Store, Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

• Dreamings, Spazio Pitti Arte, Florence, Italy

• Dreamings, Vlaams-Europeesch Conferentiecentrum, Brussels, Belguim

• Hilton Hotel Art Gallery, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

• Museum Dorestad, Wijk bij Duurstede, The Netherlands

• New World Art Gallery, Hattem, The Netherlands

 

1998 – 2000

• Raiki Wara. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Museum & Art Gallery of the N.T., Darwin, Cairns Regional Art Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Art Gallery of S.A., Adelaide

• Tjinytjilpa. The Dotted Design, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery; Swan Hill Art Gallery; Mildura Art Gallery; Old Treasury Building, Melbourne; The Exhibitions Gallery, Wangarrata; Horsham Art Gallery

 

1999

• Ginninderra Galleries, Canberra

• Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs

• Aboriginal Art – Australia Today, Deutsche Welle, Cologne, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• Indigenous Art of the Dreamtime, United Nations and Australian Agency, New York, USA

 

 

2000

• Mbantua Gallery, Alice Springs

• Art of the Aborigines, Leverkusen, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• Transitions. 17 Years of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin

• Contemporary Paintings of Australian Aborigines, Städtische Gallery, Traunstein, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• Utopia Women, Red Desert Gallery, Eumundi, und Sunshine Coast University, Noosa

 

2001

• The Unseen in Scene, Städtische Gallery Wolfsburg, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• De Beer´s Collection, Brookdale Galleries

• Seven Sisters Petyarre, Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane

• Walkabout Indigenous Art Gallery, Sydney

• Young Presidents Organization University, Westin Hotel, Sydney

 

2001 – 02

• Erzählungen über die Dinge des Lebens. Kunst aus Australien. (Recounting the Essence of Life. Art from Australia). Kunstforum HDZ, Bad Oeynhausen, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

 

2002

• The Strength and the Light. Art from Australia, New Art Association Aschaffenburg, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

• Sinnbild und Identität (Images and Identity), Ev. Acadamy Iserlohn, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

 

2003

• Big Country. Works from the Flinders University Art Museum Collection, Flinders University City Gallery, Adelaide

• Art from Australia, Central and Federal State Library, Berlin, Germany (in co-operation with Aboriginal Art Gallery Bähr, Speyer)

 

Selected Collections

• Anthropology Museum, St. Lucia, USA

• Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

• Kelton Foundation, Los Angeles

• National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

• Robert Holmes à Court Collection, Perth

• University of Queensland, Brisbane