Aboriginal and Oceanic Art

Aboriginal Art Directory | 05.07.10

Catalogue Now Online

1 July 2010
Sotheby's Australia is delighted to announce our forthcoming Aboriginal and Oceanic Art auction on July 26 and 27 in Melbourne. Under the directorship of Tim Klingender, the July auction has been firmly established for more than a decade as the highlight of the international Aboriginal Art collecting calendar and this year's sale promises to attract broad interest from museums and international collectors, and to set new records across the field. A number of highly significant Aboriginal Art collections have been consigned for this auction. Returning to Australia from Europe, after touring internationally for nearly 20 years, is the widely exhibited and published Donald Kahn Collection. Consigned from Melbourne are major works of Aboriginal art from two of Australia's most respected collections, the Clemenger Art Collection and the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection.

To view catalogue click here.

Consigned from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection is an important group of indigenous sculpture dating from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well as major desert paintings from the 1980s and bark paintings from the 1960s and 1970s. The sculpture collection is one of the finest groups ever to be offered at auction and includes three outstanding Mokuy spirit figures from Central Arnhem Land (Lot 34, 36 and 35 est.: $70,000-$100,000* each), Mimih figures from Arnhem Land, Rangga carvings of a stingray, birds and fish, a Wik carving of a camp dog, and Tiwi sculptures of creator beings and an esoteric ‘listening' Wallaby.

The highlight of the paintings from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection is Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri's large and impressive 1986 canvas Untitled (Lungkata's Two Son's) (lot 50, est.: $250,000-350,000), that featured on the front cover of his 1988 Institute of Contemporary Art retrospective in London, and was included in the artist's touring retrospective in 2004. The eminent authority on the art of Clifford Possum, Dr. Vivien Johnson, regards Untitled (Lungkata's Two Sons), as the prototype of his famous series of skeleton paintings and has commented that "there is an undeniable beauty in these skeletal symbols of human mortality which are animated by the skill and fluidity of the painter's technique."

Among the fine works from the Clemenger Art Collection, are major examples by Australia's leading contemporary Aboriginal artists, including Brook Andrew's iconic Sexy And Dangerous 1 (lot 98, est.: $20,000-30,000), two paintings by Kimberley master Paddy Bedford, works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Kitty Kantilla, both of which featured in the respective artists' retrospective exhibitions, and a magnificent and rare large format canvas by the acclaimed Wanjina painter Alec Mingelmanganu. Mingelmanganu's Wanjina (lot 97, est.: $200,000 - 300,000) is the largest of the artist's rare canvases to have been sold at auction, where it set a new record for the artist when offered by Sotheby's in 2002.

More than 40 paintings, mainly from the Western Desert, are returning to Australia from The Donald Kahn Collection. Renowned as one of the famous American "K's" of Aboriginal art collecting (the others being Richard Kelton and John Kluge), Donald Kahn, an American philanthropist and benefactor, assembled the collection in the late 1980s after seeing the landmark exhibition Dreamings - The Art of Aboriginal Australia at the Asia Society in New York. He was so taken by the experience that he decided to immediately build a collection of Western Desert paintings in order that it could be toured. Over the next few years he assembled a collection of some 35 major canvases. Having achieved his aim of providing an overview of contemporary Western Desert painting, it was now of an appropriate size to begin touring. Over the next two decades the collection was published three times and was exhibited in numerous museums and art galleries in the USA, Europe and the Middle East, beginning with its first showing at the Lowe Museum at the University of Miami in 1991, and culminating at the Albertina in Vienna in 2007. When asked what drove him to create his travelling exhibition of Australian Western Desert painting, he once responded, "I wanted to make a little mark by collecting something excellent, and allowing people to see it". Highlights in The Donald Kahn collection include a monumental canvas by seminal Pintupi artist Uta Uta Tjangala, Tingari Journey (lot 122, est. $70,000-100,000), one of only a few produced on this scale, and possibly the only one still not in the collection of a public museum. Others include three rare paintings by Walpiri artist Darby Jampitjinpa Ross, an early canvas by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, and a large early painting by senior Balgo Hills artist Mick Gill Tjakamarra.
The sale also includes many other notable paintings. Returning to Australia from a distinguished English collection, and sold as ‘The Property of a Lady', is an important early large scale Papunya board painted by Anatjari Tjakamarra in 1973, entitled Story of a Woman's Camp and the Origins of Damper, (lot 55, est.: $150,000-250,000). This exceptional painting toured museums throughout Canada in 1974 as part of The Art of Aboriginal Australia exhibition, and set a new auction record for the artist when it was last sold at Sotheby's in 1998. Among the other early Western Desert paintings is a major early canvas by Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Warru (wallaby) Ancestors (lot 60, est.: $100,000-150,000). Painted in April 1974, this exceptionally complex and fine work is possibly the first large scale canvas by the artist. The painting is a depiction of an extravagant ceremony conducted by the Warru Wallaby Men to celebrate fertility in natural species and, in particular, humans. The highly ordered nature of the composition reflects the systematic progress of the ritual.

Among the fine Emily Kngwarreye paintings in the auction is Untitled (Alhalkere), (lot 130, est.: $100,000-150,000), one of five paintings from the 'Last Series' exhibited in both her 1998 and 2008 retrospective exhibitions. One of these featured on the cover of the Japanese exhibition catalogue. Executed using a broad brush, these final works represent another new change in direction in the artist's continuously dynamic oeuvre, and this significant painting is believed to be the first of the series to be offered at auction. The sale also features major works by the recognised masters of Aboriginal art including Rover Thomas, Albert Namatjira, Yirawala, and many fine artefacts such as early shields from south eastern Australia and north east Queensland and an important group of early New South Wales artefacts from the Clarence River region.

In recent years Sotheby's Australia has on occasion included outstanding examples of Oceanic Art in a designated section within the catalogue. This year's auction begins with a curated group of artefacts from Vanuatu, New Ireland, New Britain, the Admiralty Islands, the Sepik River, Solomon Islands and the Papuan Gulf. Among the highlights are a rare Nevimbumbao figure from South West Malakula (lot 2, est.: $30,000-50,000), of which a related example was gifted by Pierre Matisse to Pablo Picasso in 1954, and is now housed in the Picasso Museum in Paris. Also featured are a large and impressive pair of Karawari Cult figures (lot 12, est. $70,000-100,000), that sold for three times their estimate when offered at Sotheby's in 1993; and an early and rare friction drum, collected in 1919/20 (lot 22, est.: $30,000-50,000).

URL: http://www.sothebysaustralia.com.au/about_auction_news_view.php?article=346&type=announcement

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