Art sales: Will the Aboriginal magic return?

Aboriginal Art Directory | 17.07.07

Author: Colin Gleadell
News source: The Telegraph
Publication date: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Article in the Telegraph about the upcoming Sotheby's auction and in particular Warlugulong by Clifford Possum with a price tag of over 2.5 million AUD.

Quoted from the article:

When Warlugulong was painted, the average price for a Possum painting was between A$200 and A$300. By the mid-1980s, it was around A$10,000. Aboriginal paintings began to be resold at auction. In 1989, one of Possum's works sold for A$20,000. By 1996, Sotheby's had specialised sales, and that year Warlugulong sold for A$40,000. Then came the golden years. In 2001, a record A$778,500 was paid for a painting by Rover Thomas, and in 2003 Sotheby's sales peaked with a A$7.46 million auction.

But over the past three years demand has cooled. The introduction of export licences for significant early works may have deterred overseas collectors, but the main problem was excessive supply of indifferent works. In 2004 Sotheby's packed nearly 600 lots into its annual sale, but the sales total dropped for the first time since 1996. It dropped again in 2005, and last year was only A$3.9 million. This decline has coincided with mounting concern over the Aboriginal art industry, which is said to be worth up to A$600 million a year in total. Stories have abounded of ruthless dealers exchanging alcohol, Viagra and cars for paintings, and selling fakes. But the auction market is a long way from the tourist market. "It's very ethical, sophisticated and international," says Sotheby's Aboriginal art specialist, Tim Klingender.

"This is our first sale since the market took a kick, so it will be a real test. The high end of the market is still strong. In May, a record was set for an Aboriginal artist - a painting by Emily Kngwarreye sold for A$1 million in Sydney. The opening of the Quai Branly Museum of indigenous art in Paris has also had a positive effect."


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Gallery: Sotheby's Australia
Telephone: +61 (0)2 9302 2402
Address: 30 Queen Street Woollahra Sydney 2025 NSW



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