Thursday, 20 March 2008

Record Prices for Aboriginal Art


Record prices for Aboriginal art

March 20, 2008 04:16am

Article from: AAP

ABORIGINAL art up for auction in Sydney has attracted strong interest and set record prices.

Some 120 works went under the hammer tonight for the Lawson-Menzies auction, many of which were post-1980 Aboriginal works.

A spokeswoman for auction house Lawson-Menzies said a clearance rate of 80 per cent showed the works were popular with investors.

"This has been a very strong night for the sale of Aboriginal art," she said.

"Sale prices broke records for three Aboriginal artists."

A polymer paint on linen work by Judy Watson Napangardi, titled Women's Dreaming, sold for $216,000 including a 20 per cent buyer's premium.

Another synthetic polymer paint on linen piece, Kutungka Napanangka at Papunga, by Walangkura Napanangka, sold for $52,800 including buyer's premium.

The third record-breaking price was achieved by a Robert Campbell Junior canvas titled Ash Wednesday. It sold for $21,600 including buyer's premium.

Information about buyers was not available immediately after the auction, however the spokeswoman said the sale was expected to "attract younger investors and those wanting to purchase museum-quality Aboriginal art".

Link to original article at

Des Art in the Park

Hi Everyone. Here is an article about Des Art in the park held in Alice Springs. With over a thousand people in attendance, it seems like it was a stunning success!

Des Art in the Park

There was a frenzy of buying and selling as over a thousand people gathered to pick up an art bargain at Des Art in the Park.

Stalls selling everything from bright canvases to jewellery, prints, and painted artefacts were at the event, which brings together Aboriginal owned and controlled art centres for a two day conference and art market.

Eighteen art centres from as far away as Tjukurla in Western Australia and Ernabella in South Australia travelled to Alice Springs. Vicki Bassito, coordinator of the Tjukurla Art centre, 800 kilometres west of Alice Springs said the event is a great opportunity for the artists and the public.

"It's a great chance to showcase our work and meet with the public and actually talk about the paintings and many artists are here tonight talking about their own work which is an opportunity the general public don't often get."

The art market comes at the end of a two day conference for art centre co-ordinators. Alan Tyley from Keringke Arts at Santa Teresa said that the main issue at the conference was marketing.

"Even though in central Australia we see a lot of Aboriginal art the market is growing incredibly vibrantly throughout Australia so there's a fair bit of competition for what works are available by commercial galleries and to get the work out to those galleries."

Debra Myers from Ernabella Arts in South Australia said the most important issue for her discussed at the conference was how to get more Aboriginal people working in local art centres. "I think we really need to be careful about how the programs are implemented and have lots of consultation with the people that are actually going to be doing the training."

Article and photos courtesy of

Link to original article

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Kimberley Cruising

Hi everyone. Below is an article from Peter Hughes about a cruise he partook in across the top end of Australia. It's a great article describing this unique holiday that every Aboriginal Art enthusiast should try to experience once in their life! I think Peter does a great job of describing the cruise and what it entails. It's a great read:

Australian cruise: Bond Street meets outback

On an expeditionary cruise in Western Australia, Peter Hughes enjoys the remoteness, the ancient cave art - and some solid home comforts.

Australian cruise: Bond Street meets the outback

Anywhere else they would have called this a safari, but safari is a tricky word in Australia. If it summons up visions of rhino roaming the savannahs, of slinking leopards and stalking lions, the Australian version may be a bit of an anticlimax.

The most dramatic wildlife encounters down under are notional. It is the thought of the homicidal that gives Australia its frisson: venomous snakes, toxic spiders, psychotic sharks, lethal jellyfish and crocodiles that can take off your leg before they are half grown. All lurk in the imagination's long grass but they are not really the stuff of tourist tick-lists. The reality is safer, if tamer.

That is why, on the second morning of my voyage into the Timor Sea aboard the expedition ship Orion, we looked at mangroves. And while our quarry did look like a load of undergrowth, there were compensations.

We were skimming up an estuary in Zodiac inflatables. It was low tide. Crocodiles slumped on the mud as active as granite, their thumb-sized brains having concluded that a Zodiac was neither a threat nor edible.

Orion was anchored in Prince Frederick Harbour at the mouth of the Hunter River off the north coast of Western Australia. Don't be fooled by the marina-sounding names: this is a place remote even to Australians.

Above us sheer curtains of coppery rock fell from a bumpy skyline of scrub. Up there was the lip of the Mitchell Plateau, a recently declared National Park and some of the most inaccessible country on the continent. Offshore is Naturalists' Island. It has only just got into the gazetteers; its English name was officially approved in 2004.

The sight of a yacht anchored in the estuary made me feel almost cheated out of total isolation. Which, of course, is nothing to what the yachties must have felt when five inflatables sped past and two helicopters began flying trips to the plateau.

The Zodiacs turned out of the main channel and puttered up a muddy creek in single file. Mud skippers, little newt-like creatures, twitched on the banks, flipping themselves along with their tails. We stopped and the expedition's botanist, Tony Roberts, delivered his spiel about mangroves and how they survive in salt water.

Launched in 2003, Orion was designed as an expedition cruise ship, with the emphasis on cruising. Or so it seemed to me. Yes, she has huge stabilisers for the rollers of the Southern Ocean and a draft shallow enough for the Amazon, and is so slim she can enter the locks of the Great Lakes. Yes, she has a lecture theatre, a fishing launch and fishing guide, an expedition team and those Zodiacs for beach landings. But such intrepid stuff brooks no discomfort.

The passenger areas are fitted out more for expeditions to Bond Street than the outback. With only 100 passengers, Orion is small enough for everything except the restaurant to be contained within three decks. Cabins are priced on size – though none is small – and window area. The best open on to French balconies.

Orion does expeditions in the way Ralph Lauren might do dungarees. After storming a beach from a rubberised inflatable, you come back to yacht-like quantities of wood panelling and buffed brass. The decks are teak, the bathrooms marble and the outdoor furniture varnished timber.

There is a shop, exercise room and plunge pool and huge quantities of attractive Aussie food. On two evenings prawns and much else were thrown on the barbie on the aft deck. Dressing for dinner means long trousers, rather than shorts. Apart from films the only entertainment is the crew show, which was rather like an early round of Pop Idol but better-natured.

The largest single species of wildlife you encounter is Australians. Only young labradors are more openly companionable. But even labradors are not quite so self-revelatory.

Within seconds of meeting Vera I learnt that she prefers wearing skirts to trousers, but as the ship has no hangers with clips, what is she to do? Esther's husband is back in Melbourne. She introduced me to her companion: "I travel with my medical adviser. My husband is very old and frail." And that was before the first glass of fizz.

At dinner I sat next to Jill, an effortlessly elegant septuagenarian, who was soon roaring through her racy life as a model and occasional film stand-in. There was one outback location where Chips Rafferty, then Australia's biggest star, picked her up at the airstrip. She was in an unsuitably short skirt; he was in a Land Rover. He insisted she join him in the front, opposite the gear lever. She saw what was coming. "Spread yer legs, girlie," he cried as he yanked the stick through a tactile semaphore of superfluous gear changes. "Ah, Chips. He was a character," Jill sighed.

The 11-night Kimberley cruise goes from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Broome in Western Australia and back, an 800-mile arc of coast with barely a vestige of human habitation, at least few that were not several hundred years old.

Bradshaw Art is a style of rock painting that is believed to be the most ancient in Australia. Joseph Bradshaw was the first white man to see it in 1891. The examples we saw are on Jar Island, some 315 nautical miles south-west of Darwin. They are the rock art equivalent of L S Lowry, spindly little prancing figures unlike any other aboriginal paintings. It has been suggested that they may be the work of a completely different ethnic group.

We gathered on deck. Kitted out in bright blue buoyancy collars, we looked like troops prepared for D-Day or, in our case, veterans about to take part in a re-enactment. At the beach we paddled ashore to find towels laid to dry our feet, cold fruit juice and a pile of walking canes cut straight from the bush and ready-fitted with rubber finials.

The paintings were on two ledges a short walk from the beach through spiky spinifex and up a clamber of rocks. The paint has reduced to a dark brown stain. The rock itself is more highly coloured; it's almost tangerine. With no pigment left, the paintings cannot be carbon-dated. But dating of a wasp nest, which covers one of the figures, suggests the figure underneath is at least 17,000 years old.

The most graphic examples of native art were on Bigge Island. Shallow caves open into a wall of sandstone blocks so regular they look more like ruins than rock. Inside are some remarkable illustrations of "contact art", the natives' record of their first sight of Europeans. A sailing ship, sketched in blue, is believed to be Abel Tasman's, the Galiot, from which he mapped the coast in 1624. In another scene three men appear in a dinghy. The boat has rowlocks – introduced at the beginning of the 19th century. The men have wide-brimmed hats and, in their mouths, huge pipes.

The caves are narrow and, for all the warnings, the less agile scrape their backpacks against the pictures. "It's a contentious issue," admitted our expedition leader, Robin West. "We as tourists can visit these sites, but the aboriginals can't get to them. And in a cave system like this people rub against the paintings and touch them. I don't think we shall have the same access in a few years' time."

Whatever the Kimberley lacks in exotic wildlife it makes up for in camera-sating scenery. We watched the tide fall at Montgomery Reef, a 150-square-mile plateau of tawny coral. Water cascaded off its flat back as if it was a monster surfacing. As the reef was exposed, patrolling sea egrets, white and grey, scavenged for any fish left stranded.

There can be a 30ft to 33ft tide here, the third biggest in the world. So at Talbot Bay even a ship the size of Orion does not have the power to pass through the narrows when the tide is running. At the end of the bay the tide races through two pinched gaps – 50ft to 65ft wide – with such force they have been called the Horizontal Falls. As the tide was turning the Zodiacs staggered against the churning current, just managing to get through. Above us towered rough piles of rock, rust red, the colour of decay. It was like a scrapyard of geology. Scrawny little trees sprang from the cliff face; turkey bush ruffled the skyline. It is rock, not water that defines the Kimberley.

Two days later we took the Zodiacs up the King George River. Its wide blue waters glide through a shallow canyon whose amber walls rise vertically 300 feet. Here is a Lost World landscape. If there were dinosaurs they would be here in this primeval gulch. Again the rock is derelict – cracked and disintegrating. The shattered valley ends in a smooth rock face stained black with algae from which spout two 250ft waterfalls.

Nearby, in an anchored Zodiac, a barman was mixing buck's fizz. Another compensation.

Cruise basics

Peter Hughes's cruise on Orion was arranged by Tailor Made Travel (0845 456 8050,, which is offering similar expedition cruises to the Kimberley this year from £4,199 per person. The price includes two nights in Darwin, 10 nights on the ship, return economy flight from London to Darwin, taxes and airport transfers in Britain.

Orion ( runs other cruises, also bookable through Tailor Made Travel, to the Antarctic, the Solomon Islands, the Coral Sea, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Link to original Article

Monday, 17 March 2008

Exhibition for the Mowanjum Artists of the Kimberley

Thanks to Anna for providing information on the Cultural Connections exhibition being held in Perth later this month. If you will be in Perth during that time, go along and have a look, you might just find the Aboriginal painting you just have to have!

The exhibition "Cultural Connections: The Mowanjum Artists of the Kimberley" hosted by Artitja Fine Art who are the exclusive Perth representatives for the Mowanjum Artists will be held at the Atwell Gallery in Alfred Cove opening 28th March and continuting daily 10-6 until the 6th April. For more information call Anna on 08 9336 7787 or 0418 900 954.

Lawyers helping make a difference for Aboriginal Artists

Here is a great article from The Australian about Lawyers helping Aboriginal Artists with will making to ensure that their estate is not left in limbo and that the benefactors they have chosen aren't left with complicated legal headaches.
Hats of to the Arts Law Centre from Sydney for this fantastic initiative.

Lawyers offer lessons in legacy

Victoria Laurie March 14, 2008

WHEN Albert Namatjira died in 1959, his descendants missed out on a share of the celebrated artist's estate. In 1957, Namatjira had signed a copyright agreement with the owner of a publishing company, Legend Press.
Two years later, Namatjira died and his estate was handed over to the Northern Territory's public trustee, which in 1983 sold copyright in the works to Legend Press for $8500. It left Namatjira's family unable to gain any benefits from the lucrative reproduction of the artist's popular works over many years.
With trade in contemporary Aboriginal art booming, and paintings that sell for many thousands of dollars, families may miss out on a financial legacy if artists die without leaving wills.

This was the problem faced by the Mowanjum art centre in northwest Western Australia, near Derby, when an important artist from the community died suddenly in 2006. The artist had no offspring of her own although she had raised many children in the community.
She had painted glorious canvases, 50 of which were sitting in the art centre storeroom. They were collectively worth between $50,000 and $200,000, but it was entirely unclear where they should go.
"It left the community with a bit of a headache," says Jenny Wright, manager of the art centre. "What were we to do with them?"
It happened again two weeks before lawyers with the Sydney-based Arts Law Centre arrived in Derby to talk about will-making. Another senior Mowanjum artist had died intestate, and community members flocked to hear what the lawyers had to say. "I thought it was going to be a disaster, with everyone engaged in funeral arrangements," says Arts Law executive director and lawyer Robyn Ayres, who attended the Derby meeting. "But it actually sharpened people's minds about the issues involved and we had a big turnout.

"We worked flat out for four days and we drafted 22 wills for all the artists. Even ones who weren't working out of the arts centre came forward. Sadly, one of the willmakers has passed away since and the art centre has told us (the will) really made a difference."
Ayres and her small team explained to the Mowanjum artists that when a person died, it wasn't just their paintings that could become valuable inherited items. Under intellectual property law, a deceased artist's work is subject to copyright for 70 years after death.
"If it's a successful artist, and there's a desire to reproduce their work, then there's a potential income source for the beneficiaries," says Ayres. "It may just be a trickle but even a few hundred dollars now and then makes a difference."

Arts Law's services in will-making are part of a program called Artists in the Black, intended to increase indigenous access to legal advice on art-related matters. Ayres admits that the popularity of the service (which is not extended to non-indigenous artists, who are simply provided with Arts Law's sample will) has taken them by surprise.
"We also deal with other difficult issues like where a person wants to be buried, who is going to look after their children. It serves a number of purposes."

Mowanjum's art will be recognisable to those who remember watching the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony, and the ghostly Spirit of the Wandjina image that artist Donny Woolagoodja created. As art centre chairman, Woolagoodja was among the first to write his will with Arts Law assistance. "They are a good thing to do," he says on a visit to Perth this week, before an invitation-only showing of Mowanjum art at resource giant Woodside's headquarters, and a gallery exhibition later this month.
"It means people know they are not going to go (pass) away and leave nothing to children and grandchildren," he says. Without a will, he adds, "maybe everything goes back to the government".
Contemporary Aboriginal art earns healthy incomes for many more artists than in Namatjira's day.
Woolagoodja's work can fetch up to $15,000 for a major painting, and last November, Sotheby's auctioned a Mowanjum collective painting for $35,000.
Sandra Mungulu, whose work will also be displayed in the Mowanjum exhibition, last year achieved the community's highest solo price for a painting, of $21,000.

Making wills becomes more important as prices increase for indigenous art, says Wright. In addition, Aboriginal communities increasingly have more assets to distribute, such as boats and cars bought with mining industry royalties or wages.

Community arts centres often get caught up in the emotional wrangling over posthumous intellectual and property rights on behalf of members, she says. "So it's healthier from our point of view that the community is informed about all of their legal rights. This is a fantastic program."
Wright says when Ayres and Arts Law's indigenous lawyer Trish Adjei visited Mowanjum, the relief among artists was palpable.
"It was a resounding success and a great turnout. People were able to break off into family groups and discuss matters in private with a lawyer. People said they felt better and that the process accorded respect to their elders."
This week, Adjei was back up north with another lawyer, drafting 13 wills for artists at Waringarri arts centre in Kununurra, and another half dozen at Warmun art centre at Turkey Creek. Fitzroy Crossing is next on their itinerary.

"One artist at Waringarri passed away two years ago (without a will) and the public trustees have taken a year to find the relevant stakeholders," says Adjei. By writing down the names of nominated beneficiaries, she says, it will be a speedier process to distribute assets.
What has surprised Adjei is the generosity of those artists seeking to spread their few assets and remaining paintings around.
"There wasn't a single person who didn't already know who they wanted to leave things to," she says. "And a lot of the elderly artists have a large number of beneficiaries: one had 30 people to whom they wanted to leave assets.

Floods Can't stop Aboriginal Art Sale!

Congratulations to the Artists, organisers and art lovers who attended the fantastic Aboriginal Art sales in the Tiwi Islands!
Sounds like despite the poor conditions they have had a huge success.

Crowds gather for Tiwi art sale

Posted Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:03am AEDT
Flooded roads have not stopped one of the country's biggest Aboriginal art sales from going ahead on the Tiwi Islands off the Northern Territory coast today.
Around 90 artists from Bathurst and Melville Islands have gathered on the Nguiu football field to sell their art, before the islands' football grand final kicks off later today.
John Martin Tipungwuti from Bathurst Island is selling his wood carvings this morning.
"It's good to see a lot of people that come in, see all the people and stuff I haven't seen," he said.
"We're going to be busy."
Around $50,000 worth of art is expected to be sold today.
The Tiwi Art Network's Niru Perera has helped organise today's sale.
She says it has been a huge task getting the art from Melville Island, because the major road is flooded.
"We've used the barge and we've also had to charter a few planes as well," she said.
"Apparently all the tickets have sold for the flights with Tiwi Travel and the ferry has sold out.
"So that means we're to expect over 700 people coming through our doors."
The sale runs from 8:00am until 1:00pm ACDT.
Story Courtesy of ABC News:

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