‘Emily Kngwarreye and her Legacy’

by Edan Corkill

Hillside Forum, Daikanyama, Tokyo

Closes June 13

The commercial exhibition “Emily Kngwarreye and her Legacy” on show at Tokyo’s Hillside Forum provides a vital complement to the much larger retrospective of the Aboriginal artist’s work, “Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye” at the National Art Center, Tokyo, for two good reasons.

The first is simple: at the Hillside Forum show in Daikanyama, the works have price tags. If anything will convince the Japanese public that Emily is worthy of serious consideration — as opposed to being an exotic curiosity — it’s the knowledge that her paintings command up to ¥21 million a pop, making clear that her international reputation is formidable.

Then again, the sheer beauty of the NACT exhibit in Roppongi (www.nact.jp; on till July 28) — which was seen earlier this year at the National Museum of Art, Osaka — will itself go a long way to convincing a cautious public of this artist’s merits. Emily’s giant and lyrically flowing mazes of color look like they were made with venue’s cavernous white galleries in mind.

The second reason is that the Daikanyama show ([03] 5489-1268; on till June 13) demonstrates that Emily is not an anomaly, but a standout in a generation of Aboriginal artists channeling very non-Western visions into the Western medium of painting. Adrian Newstead, director of Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery in Sydney, which is hosting the show, has brought along work by others who emerged from the same remote Utopia region of central Australia where Emily lived until her death in 1996.

In Japan till the end of the show, and having sold two paintings already, Newstead is turning his energies to some impromptu market development. From 6:30 p.m. on Monday, he will give a talk on art investment at the venue.