Impressive Aboriginal art collections hit the auction market

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 15th May, 2017

Impressive Australian Aboriginal art collections belonging to former Australia Council chairman Dr Terry Cutler and obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Paul Sutherland lead Mossgreen’s Fine Australian Indigenous Art auction from 6.30pm Tuesday May 16 at its Sydney premises at 36-40 Queen Street, Woollahra.

Dr Cutler’s collection focuses on contemporary works on canvas featuring one of Billy Benn Perrurie’s large and most accomplished works Tnyelpe (Harding Springs) 2007, the Untitled 2004 painting by Kenny Williams Tjampitjinpa and the Ninuku Artists Collaborative painted in 2010.

He first encountered indigenous culture as a young child while visiting his older brother in Alice Springs, where he came across an Aboriginal camp while on a long surveying trip in the surrounding desert.

Opening an exhibition of Kathleen Petyarre’s works years later, Dr Cutler happened to relate the story of his first encounter with distinctively Australian culture. The artist commented she was 10 years old before meeting her first white person.

Appropriately, his first Aboriginal art purchase was one of Petyarre’s paintings and later, under the guidance of Professor Terry Smith from Sydney’s Power Institute of Art, his interest in indigenous art rapidly accelerated.

A renowned industry consultant and strategy advisor with a background in information and communications technology, Dr Cutler has long had an interest in the arts and following his stint as Australia Council chairman from 2001-2 was president of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image for the next three years.

He also has served as a director of Cinemedia, Film Victoria, Opera Australia, the Council of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Library Board of Australia.

Dr Paul Sutherland’s collection features a broad group of seminal Aboriginal art works across various genres.

He sourced barks from cultural centres that worked with natural pigments and also collected similar art from the Kimberley region of Western Australia and from Balgo.

Watercolour artists from Hermannsburg were another collecting area, with each painting depicting an aspect of the classical ghost gums and landscape series.

Highlights include Yirawala’s Kunapipi (Sacred & Secret) circa 1965, Billy Whiskey Tjapaltjarri’s Rockholes and Country near the Olgas 2007 and Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri Untitled 1994.

Other paintings belonging to Dr Sutherland include a group of works by Kimberley masters such as Jack Britten, Hector Jandany and Queenie Nakarra McKenzie.

The catalogue cover lot – Maggie Watson’s Ngalyapi Vine (Snake Vine) 1996 – is a masterwork by the one of the recognised greats whose paintings are rarely seen at auction.

Additional paintings of note include the back cover lot Old Man’s Medicine Story 1971 by Johnny Warangula Tjupurrula and Untitled 1992 by Eubena Nampitjin, whose repertoire maps her country.  

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