A music road trip gives rise to important Aboriginal art auction items

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 30th May, 2022

If acclaimed songwriter Archie Roach and his partner Ruby Hunter had never decided on a pioneering tour of indigenous communities on Australia’s Cape York peninsula, Julie Hickson might not have collected historically important, seminal art works from the Lockhart River Art Gang.

As luck would have it, in 1997 the two set out to visit these communities accompanied by a band and camera crew, with Julie as their manager in charge of arrangements.

At the time, this now famous group of Aboriginal artists (formed in 1995), which included the likes of icons such as Lin Onus, Gloria and Kathleen Petyarre and Minnie Pwerle – all local artists spanning generations who worked in different medias – was in its infancy.  

Julie instantly warmed to their works, many of which are now featured in Australian and overseas galleries, and brought them home with her.

Her collection is part of Gibson’s Auctions Interiors Private Collections sale from 10am Sunday June 5 at 885-889 High Street, Armadale.

The auction not only includes the Julie Hickson collection (lots 238-274) but also items from Andrée Harkness (lots 1-105), private Melbourne (lots 275-350) and Brisbane (lots 106-237) collections and 20th and 21st century designer furnishings from a Royal Domain apartment (lots 351-403).

Among the indigenous art is a standout piece by Minnie Pwerle (1922-2006) entitled Awelye Atnwengerrp (Bush Melon) 2004 (lot 240) and Lin Onus’s (1948-1996) Pitoa Garkman 1994 (lot 242).  

Other significant works in the collection include Mina Mina 2007 by Judy Napangardi Watson (lot 243) Gloria Tamerre Petyarre’s (1942-2021) Mountain Devil Lizard 2004 (lot 244) and Ningura Gibson Naparrula’s (circa 1938-2013) Wirrulgna Rock Holes 2007 (lot 250).

Andrée Harkness’s collection includes a patented bronze sculpture entitled Pomegranate by French sculptors Jean Claude Mazel and Yann Jalix (lot 34) – while lot 65 is a colourful Martin Boyd (1893-1972) hand painted slip decorated wall plate featuring an oriental rice planting scene.

A glazed earthenware budgerigar group (lot 81) is one several Australian potter Grace Seccombe (1880-1956) pieces among the collection and unusual is a Theodora Esther Cowan (1868-1949) lamp (lot 83).

Other items in the auction include a 17th century oak court cabinet (lot 107), an 18th century  Georgian oak settee  (lot 120), a 19th century French serpentine carved walnut commode (lot 314) and an 1805-1825 Spode tea and coffee trio (lot 151).

Lot 191, entitled Settlers Home, No 3 Camp and The Nine Mile Gum, is one of several London-born Edward Warner (1879-1968) etchings in the auction and lot 214 an unusual Chinese porcupine quill box.

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