Melbourne artist auctions some of his indigenous art collection

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd June, 2023

Melbourne-based abstract artist James Smeaton has given some of his indigenous art collection to Deutscher and Hackett for a timed online auction ending from 7pm Tuesday June 6 at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra.

Smeaton, 59, has been exhibiting solo since the early 1990s – most recently with Scott Livesey Galleries – and his paintings concentrate on aquatic and maritime features in Melbourne’s port area.

Footscray’s old two-storey cotton mills became his “painting home” in 2009, complete with a suspended Balinese fishing boat and other maritime memorabilia to help provide inspiration for his works.

Collecting Australian Aboriginal and oceanic paintings and artefacts was a passion ignited by travel and now he has decided to part with 54 items in the collection.

There is plenty amongst the works to entice buyers including Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri’s Tingari at Marawa, 2002 (lot 4) which carries a catalogue estimate of $30,000-$40,000.

Tjapaltjarri’s Untitled, 2005 (lot 1) is another strong attraction, while leading female indigenous artist Makinti Napanangka is represented with her painting, also called Untitled, 2003 at lot 5 with a catalogue estimate of $18,000-$25,000.

At the same estimate is Willy Tjungurrayi’s Untitled, 1981 (lot 21) – while two photographic works provide an interesting variation to the sale.

One is Michael Cook’s Ashtray, 2014 (lot 13) and the other Leah King-Smith’s Untitled #3, 1992 (lot 14).

The Northern Territory’s Hermannsburg School famous Namatjira name lives on – this time through Oscar who has a watercolour entitled Gum Tree, Central Australian Landscape (lot 25) – which is somewhat reminiscent of the paintings by his iconic relative Albert and is an endearing auction feature.

Several barks, including one by Jimmy Njiminjuma entitled Wakwak, 2003 (lot 29), are worth a closer look along with tribal figure art examples.

Other works to attract plenty of attention include Yukultji Napangati’s Yunala, 2002 (lot 6), Nyuju Stumpy Brown Jirntijirnti’s On The Canning Stock Route, 2003 (lot 18) and George Mung Mung’s Wudalwudal (The Dreamtime Woman), 1980 (lot 19).

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