Aboriginal art auction features big name artists

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 18th March, 2022

Big name indigenous artists in several collections are the hallmark of Australian art auction house Deutscher and Hackett’s forthcoming Important Australian Aboriginal Art sale from 7pm Wednesday March 30 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra.

One of the most noteworthy is Merne (Everything), 1991 (lot 5) by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910-1996) – painted at a time when she emerged as one of Australia’s leading artists with her works being sought after on an unprecedented scale, marking the beginning of her national and international recognition.  

Estimated at $180,000-$240,000, it is one of several Kngwarreye paintings in the auction, two of which (lots 37 and 38) appear in the Christine Collingwood collection.

Christine’s fascination with Aboriginal art began in 1962 during a school trip to central Australia when she purchased an Edwin Pareroultja watercolour at the Hermannsburg Mission.

A 1983 exhibition of contemporary Australian art, translated as Dream and Reality, at the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris – in which Walpiri artists performed a ceremony with full regalia body paint and organic attachments  in honour of their “ground painting” on Tjundu, the subject of a sacred site, in the exhibit – reinforced Christine’s belief that emerging indigenous paintings from centuries-old roots were among the most exciting contemporary art in Australia.

Albert Namatjira (1902-1959) is another significant indigenous artist to appear at the auction with four works – two from a private United Kingdom collection and two from Sydney – from which collectors can choose.

Of these, lot 1, Looking West Spring Gap, is typical of his watercolour works, which began in 1934 after he viewed a watercolour exhibition by Victorian artists Rex Battarbee and John Gardner at the Hermannsburg Mission and launched his career as a professional painter.

Perhaps the most famous of these early Aboriginal artists is Rover Thomas (Joolama) (c1926-1998) and Tumbi (Owl), 1989 (lot 9 – estimated at $200,000-$300,000) from a private Melbourne collection is a great example of his oeuvre.

Thomas possessed a wonderful ability to engage with the cosmology of many different countries and language groups across Western Australia’s Kimberley region, which gave him a unique perspective of the landscape, according to the auction catalogue essay writer Kim Akerman.

Extremely colourful is Ginger Riley Munduwalawala’s (c1936-2002) The Artist’s Country: The Four Arches, 1990 (lot 3).

His style was heavily influenced by Namatjira after a chance meeting, although Ginger found his early attempts at painting unsatisfactory.

Almost two decades later the artist had better luck with the Northern Territory Open college of TAFE’s newly opened printmaking workshop at Ngukurr Aboriginal Community, formerly known as the Roper River Mission.  

Ronnie Tjampitjinpa is a contemporary favourite and his auction painting Tingari at the Claypan Site of Malka, 1991 (lot 17) well worth viewing.

Born in 1952, John Mawurndjul is a bark painter of some note and lots 6 and 7 – Milmilngkan Site, 2007 and Milmilngkan Site, 2008, both accompanied by certificates of authenticity from Maningrida Arts and Culture – are beautifully created.

With his other work Ngalyod Rainbow Serpent, 2004 (lot 12), there is no doubt they perfectly complement various other bark paintings in the auction, two of which (lots 10 and 11) are early versions from the Gary Bradley estate.


Sydney Viewing:

36 Gosbell Street, Paddington


Friday March 18 to Sunday March 20


Melbourne viewing:

105 Commercial Road, South Yarra


Thursday March 24 to Tuesday March 29

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