Michael Nelson Jagamara

Date of Birth:



Papunya, Western Desert, Northern Territory


Warlpiri & Luritja


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Michael Nelson is an ambassador of Aboriginal art and an incredibly important figure in the Australian art world. He had a major impact in the art world when he won the inaugural National Aboriginal Art Award in Darwin in 1984 and has never looked back.

He joined the ranks of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol when he was asked by BMW to create an "art car" and he was given the honour of having one of his works made into the beautiful tiled mosaic forecourt to Parliament House in Canberra. His dreamings include Possum, Snake, Two Kangaroos, Flying Ant and Yam Dreamings for the area around Pikilyi. He had his first solo exhibition in 1989 and his paintings can now be found in major collections throughout the world.


Michael Nelson was recognised nationally and internationally in the late 1980s through numerous public art commissions and awards including the 1984 Telstra National Aboriginal Art Award. During the late 1990s, he reinvented his approach to painting with a more expressionistic style. He continues to make the salient point that although his choice of colours, materials and appearance of works are continually being reformatted, his stories have never changed! Michael Nelson’s significant contribution to Aboriginal Art was recognised in 2008, when he was awarded a Honorary Doctorate from the University of New South Wales. His works are held in private, corporate and most public collections in Australia.


The father of six girls and one boy, Michael Nelson Jagamara is a family orientated man. "When I paint I always have my children around me. I talk to them and tell them stories about our country. We often sit around the campfire, telling stories. I want to pass on my culture. I'm proud of my work."




2012              Red Desert Dreamings Gallery, Melbourne

2012              Lightning Man, FireWorks Gallery Brisbane

2010              Summer Storms, FireWorks Gallery Brisbane

2008              MICHAEL NELSON JAGAMARA: from the studio, Fireworks Gallery,

2006              Michael Jagamara: Stone Knife Arrangements, Fireworks Gallery
                      Lines + Signs, Artstation Kollmitzberg, Austria

2002              MNJ & Campfire Group, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Adelaide City Hall
                      A Foot in Two Worlds, Kuko Dreaming, Kollmitzberg, Austria

2000              Some Other Way: MNJ and Campfire Group, Fireworks Gallery,

                      Japingka Gallery, Fremantle

1999               Without the Story, the Painting Is Nothing, Brisbane City Gallery
                       New Expressions, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane

                       New Work, Desart Gallery, Sydney

1998             MNJ (a preview), Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane

1997             Nine Dreamings from Mt Singleton, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane

1993             Many Stories, Utopia Art, Sydney

1990             Michael Nelson Jagamara, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne

1989             Michael Nelson Jagamara, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne




1984             Papunya and Beyond, Araluen Centre, Alice Springs.
1984             The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT
1985            The Face of the Centre: Papunya Tula Paintings 1971-1984, NGV,  Melbourne
1986            The Biennale of Sydney, Sydney.
1986            Roar Studios, Melbourne.
1987            State of the Art: Ideas & Images of the 1980's, Institute of Contemporary Art, London.
1987            The Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the NT, Darwin.
1987            Papunya Tula: Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.
1988            Dreamings: the Art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries,  New York.
1989            Papunya Tula: Contemporary Paintings from Australia's Western Desert, John Weber Gallery, New York, USA.
1989            Centro Cultural Arte Contemporeano, Mexico City, Mexico.
1989            A Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Westpac Gallery, Melbourne        
1989            Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
1989            Windows on the Dreaming, Australian National Gallery, Canberra.
1990            National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome.
1990            Balance 1990: Views, Visions, Influences, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
1991            Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court, Canberra.
1991            Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
1991            The Painted Dream: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Tim and Vivien Johnson Collection, Auckland                     City Art Gallery and Te Whare o Aoteroa National Art Gallery, New Zealand.
1991            Alice to Penzance, The Nall Galleries, The Mall, London.
1992            Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Exhibition, Araluen Centre,Alice Springs.
1992            Crossroads - Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia,  National Museums of Modern Art,                                                 Kyoto and Tokyo.
1993            Aboriginal Art Exhibition, Kung Gubunga Oasis Gallery, Broadbeach, Queensland.
1993            Tjukurrpa, Desert Dreamings, Aboriginal Art from Central Australia (1971 - 1993), Art Gallery of WA, Perth.
1993/4          ARATJARA, Art of the First Australians, Touring: Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf  
1996            'Dreamings of the Desert' Aboriginal Dot Painting of the Western Desert, AGSA.
1998            4th National Indigenous Heritage Art Award, Art of Place, Australian Heritage Commission, Canberra.
1998            Powerful Medicine, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane.
1999            Twenty Five Years & Beyond: Papunya Tula Painting Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide.
1999            Indigenous art of the Dreamtime', Foyer United Nations Building, New York USA
1999            Without the Story the painting is nothing, Brisbane City Gallery.
1999            New Expressions, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane.
2000            Landmarks, Powerhouse Museum , Brisbane, Darr Indigenous Festival.

2001             'Icons of Australian Aboriginal Art, Singapore

2002            Twenty five years and beyond: Papunya Tula Painting, Art Gallery of  NSW,  Sydney

2002            Gallerie Commines, Paris; Australian Embassy, Paris.

2004             Spirit & Vision, Sammlung Essl, Austria
                    Cultural Copy: Visual Conversations on Indigenous Art & Cultural  Appropriation, Fowler Museum, UCLA, USA   

2006-7         Gifted, an exhibition of Indigenous Art at the AGNSW, Sydney

2006             Imants Tillers: One World Many Visions (collaborations with Imants Tillers) National Gallery of Australia

2007             Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Sydney
                     Crossing Cultures 2: Indigenous Art from Western Sydney and the  North Western Desert, Blacktown                                            Art Centre, Sydney
                    Tattersall’s Club Landscape Art Prize, Brisbane
                     Archibald Prize, (a joint work: ‘Portrait of MNJ’ by David Paulson, ‘ Kangaroo’ by MNJ) Art Gallery of NSW

2008             Wynne Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

2009             Little Gems, Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane

2010             Melbourne Art Fair, Royal Exhibition Building Carlton Melbourne

2011            Tattersall’s Club Landscape Art Prize, Brisbane
           Eclectica Exhibition Series (I, II & III)
2012            Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane






 BMW Art Car Project, Painted BMW M3 Racing Car


Possum & Wallaby Dreaming, Forecourt Mosaic, New Parliament House, Canberra


Possum Dreaming, Bicentennial Mural, Sydney Opera House  




2008      Honorary Doctorate, University of New South Wales, Sydney

2007      Redlands Westpac Art Prize, Sydney

2006      Winner, Tattersall’s Club Landscape Art Prize, Brisbane

2002      Winner, Conrad Jupiters Art Prize, Gold Coast City Art Gallery

1993      Fellowship Visual Arts/Craft Board of the Australia Council, Sydney
              Australian Medal for Services to Aboriginal Art

1984      Winner, 1st National Aboriginal Art Award, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin  




Australian Museum, Sydney
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
Griffith Artworks, Brisbane
Artbank, Sydney
Opera House, Sydney
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide
Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland
Rockhampton Art Gallery, Queensland
Broken Hill Art Gallery, New South Wales
Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs
Paul Eliadis Collection, Brisbane
The Holmes à Court Collection, Perth
Vizard Collection, Melbourne
Sammlung Essl, Austria
Centre Culturel Tjibaou, New Caledonia
Ho¬-Am Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
BMW Art Car Project, United States
The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, United States
Numerous private collections Australia & overseas