Ken Done

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Ken Done

Done in 2014
Kenneth Stephen Done

(1940-06-29) 29 June 1940 (age 83)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Alma materNational Art School

Kenneth Stephen Done AM (born 29 June 1940) is an Australian artist best known for his design work. Although his simple, brightly coloured images of Australian landmarks have adorned a very popular range of clothing and homewares sold under the "Done Design" brand, Done's primary interest is in being a painter. Art critic John McDonald said: "Anybody who has anything to do with him realises he is a very serious artist."[1]

Early life[edit]

Ken Done, an only child, grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, and left high school at age 14 to study at the National Art School in East Sydney between 1954 and 1959.[2][3] At the end of this decade he travelled abroad and began working with the New York and London based advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. He returned to Sydney in 1969 to follow his artistic desires. He became a full-time painter in 1975.[4]

Exhibitions and works[edit]

Done's first solo exhibition was in Sydney in 1980. To date he has staged over 100 exhibitions dedicated solely to his work. Done's work has been exhibited in Australia, Japan, and France, amongst others. His first European exhibition was held in Paris in 1996. In the year 2000 his works were exhibited in Los Angeles and in London.[2]

His work for the 1988 World Exposition held in Brisbane Australia, the colourful Children of the World facade for the United Nations Pavilion, and the several 6 m high alphabet letter blocks that adorned the Entrance and Exit of the Australia Pavilion are largely regarded as playing a central role in the celebration and popular culture of Bicentennial Australia and were one of the most photographed works of art at the Expo. They have as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of Expo 88 in 2018, been fully restored, including an interview with Ken Done.[5]

In 1994 the Powerhouse Museum staged a major retrospective of Done's work.

In 2015 from Dec 11 to Dec 20, 2015, Ken done exhibited a solo show of selected works produced throughout his career titled 'The Joy of Colour' at Trevor Victor Harvey Gallery in Seaforth, making this exhibition his first solo show within a commercial gallery that Ken Done has exhibited outside of his personally owned gallery located in The Rocks, Sydney.[6]

His touring exhibition Paintings you probably haven't seen travelled for almost 3 years touring regional galleries around Australia from 2019. The 35 artworks were hung in 11 galleries, from Far North Queensland to Victoria. They travelled over 10,000 kms, and were hung for 809 days.

Design company[edit]

Ken Done created a design company called "Done Art and Design" with his wife Judy Done. The company started out by producing small runs of T-shirts featuring Done's art and the garment design of his wife Judy. In 1993 the company won the Fashion Industries of Australia's, Grand Award.

An original Ken Done work featured on the cover of the Japanese women's magazine Hanako every week between 1989 and 1999.[7]


Done at Mosman Art Gallery in 2010

He has been a UNICEF Australia Goodwill Ambassador since 1988, and won the Australian father of the year award in 1989.

During October 1995, Done was asked to create a series of flag designs by the then Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating. Republicanism in Australia was news at the time and Done submitted sixteen designs to Ausflag, some of which he had created as early as 1981.[8]

He was commissioned to produce a series of works for both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Ken Done has long been a supporter of art in Australia especially encouraging school students through awards and sponsorships, although Done decided to sue Australian band TISM for appropriating his work on an album cover. The album formerly named Australia the Lucky Cunt was released in September 1993 and depicted a Done-style koala with a syringe in its mouth. Done was angered by this use and obtained an injunction order to ban the sale of the album.[9][10] The album was then re-released in November under the a new title Censored Due to Legal Advice and a new cover depicting four edited pictures depicting Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor on the TV show Saturday Night Live when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II. The images are edited to show the singer tearing up a sheet with TISM's logo and the album's new name on it.[11]

In 2006 he designed and created the United Buddy Bear for Australia.

Expo 88 signs[edit]

It was as a result of the commission to design the Entrance and Exit Statement at the Australian Pavilion, at World Expo 88, that he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1988. That Statement became one of the most iconic parts and memories of Expo 88. In effect he donated the signs to a college north of Brisbane. Of recent years the signs have sat rusting away, that was until one college student by the name of Kurt Jones started a social media storm. A local purchased the signs and donated them to the Caboolture Historical Village. After a massive six-month effort by the Historical Village[12] they were unveiled, fully restored by Ken Done AM and Sallyanne Atkinson AO, on 28 October 2018, as the centre piece event in the closing of the 30th Anniversary of Expo 88. [13]

The Ken Done Gallery is located in The Rocks, Sydney.



  • 1967 Cannes Gold Lion Award
  • 1973 Gold and Silver A.W.A.R.D.S.
  • 1974 D. & A.D. Awards O.A.A.A. Award
  • 1975 Melbourne A.D.C. Awards
  • 1976 Caxton Award
  • 1977 F.A.C.T.S. Award
  • 1986 New South Wales Tourism Award
  • 1989 Father of the Year
  • 1992 Order of Australia (AM) for services to Art, Design and Tourism
  • 1993 Fashion Industries of Australia Grand Award
  • 1993 Mosman Citizen of the Year
  • 1993 Rotary International Award for Excellence
  • 1993 Spirit of Australia Award for excellence in the Australian Arts


  • If I make a painting, it should be seen for what it's set out to do too. A lot of the things that I do, it's not all art. Some of it's design, some of it's illustration, some of it's graphics, some of it's concept, some of it's business and some of it, hopefully, is art.
  • Art shouldn't be something that you go quietly into an art gallery and dip your forelock and say 'I have to be very quiet, I'm in here amongst the art.' It's here, art's everywhere. It's how you use your eyes. It's about the enjoyment of visual things. And it's certainly not for any one group of people.
  • I've always thought that there shouldn't be any limit to the things that are well designed. And I think that people who consider that art should only be kept for art galleries and doesn't have a role in public life, I think that's too narrow.
  • In the times in which we live it is far too restricting to say that art can only be found in art galleries and not touch people's everyday lives.. I want to use any means that are necessary to communicate to people what I feel about things. There are no rules. And if there are rules, then you may as well break them.
  • Wherever you are in the world, there's always something about the Australian light. There's something about the sharpness of it, something about the clarity of it, something about the colours of Australia. And, hopefully, something optimistic about Australian painting too.[14]


  1. ^ Taffel, Jacqui (27–28 September 2014). "Ken Done turns to theatre design". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. Spectrum section. pp. 10–11. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ken done A.M. F.D.I.A (Hon) Hon B.des Archived 21 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Ken Done, The Art of Design Archived 13 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ The Art of Ken Done Janet McKenzie
  5. ^ 17/5/2018 Greg Raedel/ Caboolture Historical Village on ABC Breakfast Radio, archived from the original on 13 December 2021, retrieved 7 May 2020
  6. ^ "Harbourview Magazine : October 2014, Page 9". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Ken Done Archived 23 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine The Blue Dot Gallery
  8. ^ Ken Done's Flag Gallery Archived 3 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine Ausflag
  9. ^ Scatena, Dino (November 1993). "Random Notes". Rolling Stone Australia. No. 489. Sydney, NSW: Tilmond Pty Ltd. p. 11.
  10. ^ Murphy, Kerrie (8 July 2004). "Satire and music in accord". The Australian. News Limited. p. 12. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  11. ^ "TISM". The Weirdest Band in the World. 4 April 2012. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Reference can now be found to the resulting Monument at
  14. ^ Ken Done quotes

External links[edit]