Aboriginal art collectors bring their works to auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 9th July, 2020

Peter and Renate Nahum need no introduction to art collectors the world over. Australians know them as avid fans of Aboriginal art – with a collection that spans more than 20 years.  

This collection will now be available to other enthusiasts from 7pm on Wednesday July 15 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra when Deutscher and Hackett auction than 50 of the paintings as part of its Important Australian and International Fine Art sale.

With Stage 3 restrictions now re-imposed in metropolitan Melbourne due to the large number of fresh coronavirus outbreaks, viewing is by appointment only from Thursday July 9 to Wednesday July 15.

The Nahums are international household names, a reputation that started when Peter spent 17 years with Sotheby’s in London during which time he established the Victorian Painting Department at the auction house’s newly opened premises in Belgravia (1971) and headed up the British Painting Department (1840 to Contemporary) until his departure.

This was followed by the establishment of his own gallery in 1984 (which later became known as the Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries) at St James, London – zeroing in on high quality 19th century and 20th century British art.  

At the same time, Peter was a regular on the BBC’s popular Antiques Roadshow for more than 20 years as well as producing an extensive ranged of scholarly publications and exhibition catalogues on Victorian and 20th century British art which he and Renate donated in 2012 to the Paul Mellon Centre Library.

Their subsequent interest in Aboriginal art – particularly the bold simplicity of works from the Western Australian Kimberley region and John Mawurndjul’s bark designs – was an acknowledgement that this was part of a unique and international art movement.

In particular, the Nahum collection highlights the importance of eucalyptus bark paintings from Maningrida, Yirrkala and Western Arnhem Land.

There are several barks on offer at the auction that no doubt will pique collector interest.

One is Mawurndjul’s Ngarrt – Short Necked Turtle 1989 (lot 78), which features alongside his Ngalyod The Rainbow Serpent in the Form of Yinarnga (Kangaroo) (lot 79) from the same year.

Others are intriguing works by Jimmy Njiminjuma, Namerredje Guymala and Yirawala (lots 80-82).

Rover Thomas paintings are bound to attract plenty of attention, particularly Tributaries of the Ord River 1991 (lot 77) which carries a catalogue estimate of $200,000-$300,000 – along with Emily Kame Kngwarreye Merne (Everything) 1996 (lot 84) at $150,000-$200,000.

The remainder of the auction also holds plenty of appeal to collectors not wishing to buy Aboriginal art.

Much sought after works by significant Australian artists include Fred Williams Acacias, Arthurs Creek 1977 (lot 21), Garry Shead’s Annunciation 2000 (lot 28), Hans Heysen’s A Summer’s Day 1907 (lot 14), Jeffrey Smart’s First Study for the President Factory 2002-03 (lot 29), Tom Roberts’ Dandenong Landscape 1925 (lot 15) and William Robinson’s Rain and Sunlight 1996 (lot 25).

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