Bonhams Announces Inaugural Aboriginal Art Auction

. June 6, 2011 . 0 Comments

Bonhams announce their inaugural Aboriginal art auction scheduled for Tuesday 28 June as part of the Winter Auction Series at Byron Kennedy Hall, Moore Park, Sydney. The newly established department of three specialists, Francesca Cavazzini, Greer Adams and Senior Consultant Tim Klingender, presents a carefully curated sale of a select 145 lots. Bonhams is the only internationally-owned auction house operating in Australia and this sale is anticipated to garner extensive international and national attention from the world’s most active private collectors, museums, galleries, corporations and other institutions across the globe.

The sale highlights include three exceptional mid-1980s works by the celebrated Rover Thomas (circa 1926-1998), including Booralbun, 1986, commissioned by Mary Macha and previously in The Holmes à Court Collection estimated at $100,000-120,000 (lot 49). This work features on the cover of the catalogue and exhibits Thomas’ characteristic use of heavily resinous and gritty paint that contrasts with the wash of the ground colour.

Also offered for sale are two 1971 Papunya boards which were amongst the earliest works ever consigned by Geoffrey Bardon to the Stuart Art Centre, Alice Springs. Executed by two of the doyens of the Western Desert movement, Uta Uta Tjangala’s (circa 1926-1990) Man Growing Old, Balls Going Walkabout (Medicine Story) (lot 19) and Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula’s (circa 1925-2001), Untitled (Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa) (lot 20) are enticingly estimated at $20,000-30,000 and $30,000-50,000 respectively.

Ningura Napurrula (circa 1928) is one of the leading women artists of Papunya Tula Artists, Alice Springs. Untitled (Women at Ngaminya), (Est: $150,000-200,000, lot 82) is the largest work the artist painted for the art centre and is amongst the most impressive. The painting was commissioned for the Pool Party Charity Auction held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2005 which raised money for the construction of two swimming pools at the Maningrida and Walungurru communities, Northern Territory. In the following year, Napurrula’s international acclaim was reaffirmed through the major commission for a ceiling piece by the Musée du quai Branly in Paris which opened to the public in 2006.

There are few known examples of series of bark paintings by an individual artist. The rare suite of ten bark paintings by Bobby Barrdjaray Ngainjmirra (circa 1915-1992) offered in this sale depict the chronicle of the giant Luma Luma, one of the apical creation dramas of Kunwinjku and Kuninjku peoples of Western Arnhem Land. Most bark painting series are held in public institutions. However, this suite has remained in a private collection since the early 1970s (Est: $50,000-70,000, lot 17).

Vernon Ah Kee’s work has featured most notably in the National Indigenous Art Triennial: Culture Warriors in 2007, Sydney Biennale in 2008 and the artist represented Australia at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. Two cutting-edge works are included in this sale. Austracism, 2003 (Est: $15,000-25,000, lot 34) is the only example from an edition of three to be held in a private collection. In this work Ah Kee uses language as a weapon, giving an Indigenous perspective on Australia’s cultural history.

Consigned from the highly respected collection of Colin and Elizabeth Laverty are two bark paintings by John Mawurndjul and a canvas by Emily Kame Kngwarreye (lots 18, 29 and 59). The highlight from this group is undoubtedly Mawurndjul’s Mardayin at Kakodebuldi, 2000 (Est: $60,000-80,000, lot 18) produced during his most celebrated period around the turn of the century. This major example exhibits the artist’s exceptionally fine use of rarrk of Mardayin design. Mardayin at Kakodebuldi was exhibited at Annandale Galleries as part of the Olympic Arts Festival, and it has since been included in the artist’s retrospective exhibition at the Museum Tinguely, Basel in 2005.

Another interesting highlight (lot 6) is a collection of early 20th Century photographs by Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968) and an unknown photographer (Est: $5,000-8,000). Of German heritage, Reichenbach also known as Ted Ryko, was a photographer who travelled throughout the Northern Territory by bicycle during the first half of the century. In one of the reports by the Australian Military Intelligence accusing Ryko of being a German spy, even one of the lieutenants acknowledged the fine quality of his photographs. Ryko went on to produce a number of images including over 2500 photographic postcards from which he made a living. This album of 28 silver gelatin prints provides an insight into Indigenous culture and people from the Alligator and Daly Rivers and Oenpelli regions.

Image: Ningura Napurrula (circa 1928) Untitled (Women at Ngaminya) bears dimensions and Papunya Tula Artists catalogue number NN0504019 on the reverse (obscured) synthetic polymer paint on linen 210 x 280cm (82 11/16 x 110 1/4in). Estimate: AU$150,000 – 200,000

Category: Fine Art

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