Aboriginal painting breaks the $1 million barrier
Date: 24 May 2007 | | Views: 3730
Source: The Age (Melbourne) (www.theage.com.au), by Paul Bibby
AN INDIGENOUS artwork has broken the $1 million price barrier for the first time, with a painting by central Australian artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye selling for $1,056,000 at an auction in Sydney last night.
Kngwarreye's epic contemporary work Earth's Creation smashed all previous records for indigenous art when it was snapped up by Tim Jennings from Alice Springs' Mbantua Gallery at the Lawson-Menzies Aboriginal Art auction in Randwick.
The previous record of $780,000 set by Rover Thomas' All that big rain coming from topside in 2001, was left by the wayside at the auction, which was one of the largest and most valuable indigenous art sales ever held.
Lawson-Menzies' Aboriginal art specialist, Kerry Williams, said the record-breaking price of Earth's Creation was due to the artist's extraordinary skill and the work's majestic scale.
"It tells the story of the Earth, the artist's land, the ceremonies and the seasons — I think Emily described it as 'the whole lot'," Mr Williams said.
"It's really unlike any other work in terms of demonstrating Emily's style and her complete confidence when tackling a work on such a grand scale.
"It's one of the defining works of contemporary indigenous art."
More than 300 art works, including paintings by acclaimed artists Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Albert Namatjira, went under the hammer, with Lawson-Menzies predicting that total sales would be in excess of $5.5 million.
Among the other big ticket items to be sold were Lin Onus' Fish and Storm Clouds, which went for $288,000. Tommy Watson's Waltitjatta sold for $240,000, way over the predicted price of $80,000.
Six Aboriginal artefacts were withdrawn from the auction yesterday following claims they were "secret and sacred".
The items — wooden boards used in indigenous ceremonies in Arnhem Land and central Australia — were taken off the market by Lawson-Menzies' indigenous art expert, Adrian Newstead, following objections from the National Association for the Visual Arts.
The association claimed, on the basis of advice from its expert reference group and the Central Land Council, that the artefacts were used in sacred ceremonies and thus subject to Aboriginal customary law. It has called for them to be returned to their communities.
The association also said that few of the artists whose work was sold at yesterday's auction would benefit from the high prices.
Executive director Tamara Winikoff said that under Australian law there were no resale royalties for indigenous artists, meaning the owners of the works would be the ones cashing in.
"None of Emily's descendants are going to see a penny from that sale," she said.