Aboriginal artwork fails to sell
August 31, 2005 BBCnews
A painting by an Aboriginal artist, which experts hoped would fetch more than a million Australian dollars, has failed to sell at auction.
Lundari (Barramundi Dreaming) was painted in 1985
It was hoped Lundari (Barramundi Dreaming), by the late Rover Thomas, would become the first indigenous painting to reach that amount.
Auction house Christie's in Melbourne said bidding did not meet the reserve when it ended at A$750,000 (£314,000).
Aboriginal art now accounts for more than 50% of all art sales in Australia.
Thomas still holds the current record of A$778,750 ($326,000) for All That Big Rain Coming From Topside, which sold in 2001.
At a Sotheby's auction in Melbourne last month 195 Aboriginal works sold for a total of A$ 4.8m, with 42% bought by overseas bidders.
Roger Benjamin, Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney, said Aboriginal art "initially fed into art lovers' affection for tribal and oceanic art, the so-called primitive arts" but has now moved beyond that.
He said: "It's actually seen as part of the contemporary art of Australia and, many people are now saying, the most vigorous part of the contemporary art scene in this country.
"If you look at the history of it, a lot of what we call Aboriginal art is work produced specifically to sell to the non-Aboriginal art lovers and tourists."
Benjamin added that Thomas was considered to be among the top three or four Aboriginal artists.
"They should be recognised as great artists, not just great Aboriginal artists," he said.
Thomas was born near Gunawaggi in Western Australia's Great Sandy Desert in about 1926.
He began painting in the mid-1970s after working for 30 years as a stockman and labourer. He died in 1998.