Aboriginal art collection traces history of a people
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th May, 2014
The Milton and Alma Roxanas collection of Aboriginal art – that he began collecting in the 1980s after being introduced to Hogarth Galleries director and scholar Clive Evatt in Sydney – will be auctioned by Bonhams from 4pm on Sunday May 11 Byron Kennedy Hall in Moore Park.
Bonhams Aboriginal art specialists are confident the Roxanas collection will attract plenty of interest as it includes paintings by artists whose prices went through the roof when the auction house sold Clive Evatt’s comprehensive collection in November last year.
After meeting Clive Evatt, Milton bought his first painting, a work by Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru, and then began seriously researching Aboriginal art and acquiring all available books on the subject.
Initially, Milton Roxanas bought bark paintings and carvings through Hogarth Galleries and Lawsons at Sydney’s Rocks – particularly Oenpelli works because of his fascination with the X-ray style, which reminded him of 15th century anatomical drawings.
Another painting source in those early days was the Aboriginal Artists Gallery, where Milton met Gabriella Roy – who became his advisor and friend and introduced him to many people associated with Aboriginal art.
Encouraged by Gabriella Roy to collect paintings by members of specific families, Milton followed works produced by the Marika and Maymurru clans.
He also concentrated on Yirrawala, well known overseas and dubbed the “Picasso of Arnhemland”.
Largely with the help of teacher Geoffrey Bardon famous for his involvement in this area, Milton later branched into Papunya boards and canvases.
His involvement in Aboriginal art, where he sought out works of cultural and historical significance, has left a legacy that maps the evolution of the genre – from the westernised landscape portrayals of the Hermannsburg School to the Butcher Joe Nangan’s drawings of Aboriginal dance rituals from Broome to Trevor Nickolls and the Queensland school of painters with their urban influences.
Sunday’s auction will showcase many of these works such as the bark painting Rainbow Serpent beneath Waterlilies c1985 by Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek (1926-2009) whose prices skyrocketed during the Clive Evatt sale.
Yirawala’s Lumaluma c1970 is another strong example as is his Untitled (Mimih Hunting Story) from the same period.
Another excellent example of painting from the early days of Aboriginal art is Deaf Tommy Mungatopi Coral Designs c1965 eucalypt bark.
Deaf Tommy was leader of the Mungatopi family for several years before his death in 1985 – the clan owning the land around Milikapti (Snake Bay) on Melville Island.
Janangoo Butcher Cherel has seven works in the Roxanas collection that they acquired from Mangkaja Arts in Fitzroy Crossing while Timothy Cook’s Kulama 2010 is a timely reminder about the fact that a book on the artist will soon be released.