The auction curtain closes on an historic Aboriginal art collection
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 21st February, 2017
Over the past 60 years, Europeans and Americans – not Australians - have been in the majority when it comes to significant collections of Aboriginal art.
Chief among them is Dutchman Thomas Vroom, who in the late 1980s first encountered Australian indigenous art in New York.
For the next two decades, he became a passionate collector on an unprecedented level – acquiring important historical works at auction, tracking down and directly acquiring old collections, buying contemporary works on numerous trips to remote regions, from galleries in Australian capital cities and from international dealers.
From the outset, Vroom’s interest in the field was broad and his collection includes early artefacts, bark paintings, ceremonial sculptures, historical paintings from the Kimberley and Central Deserts and contemporary canvases.
With David Betz and Maggie de Moor, he also established the Songlines Galleries in San Francisco and Amsterdam where he exhibited contemporary art from traditional communities.
In September 2014, Vroom contacted Aboriginal art expert Tim Klingender (director, Tim Klingender Fine Art) to sell his vast collection via several auctions.
The first was held in June 2015 in London followed by two more in Sydney later that year and in 2016.
The final approximately 700 art works and artefacts from the collection have been condensed into just over 400 lots for an auction from noon Sunday February 26 at Leonard Joel 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.
The sale features many works by Emily Kngwarreye and Kathleen Petyarre – the two artists about which he was most passionate – and many other significant canvases, bark paintings, sculptures, prints and artefacts.
Featured among the Kngwarreye paintings Desert Flowers 1995, Desert Lifecycle 1995 and My Yam Country c1995.
A good example of Petyarre’s work is My Country 1998, while another interesting work is Abie Loy Kemarre’s Untitled.
Other works of note include the acrylic Frog Dreaming by Clifford Possum and family, Paddy Nelson Tjupurrula’s Yarla Yarlia 1998 and Jack Britten’s Bungle Bungles.
All artworks in the auction have recently returned to Australia from the Thomas Vroom Collection, which for over a decade has been used as the cornerstone for exhibitions at the Aboriginal Art Museum in the Netherlands.