Press Release

Sotheby's Launches Auctions Dedicated to Aboriginal Art in New York

New York

The First Aboriginal Art Auction to Be Held In the United States by an International Auction House To Be Presented This December

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Summer Celebration 1991, Estimate $300/400,000
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Summer Celebration 1991, Estimate $300/500,000

NEW YORK, 23 May 2019 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that our auctions of Aboriginal Art will now be presented in our New York headquarters. The first such sale will be held this December and will feature modern and contemporary indigenous Australian art dating from the 1950s until the present, including post-colonial and political art created by artists from the world’s oldest continuous culture.

The December sale will mark the first Aboriginal Art auction to be held outside of Australia or Europe by an international auction house. Sotheby’s has conducted standalone Aboriginal Art auctions since 1997, with sales held in Australia from 1997 to 2009, and in London from 2015 to 2018. The sales will be led by Tim Klingender, who has overseen all such sales at Sotheby’s since their inception in 1996.

“Australian Indigenous Art has always been of global interest, with buyers in recent London sales bidding from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North & South America, and Australia. It has been my ambition for many years to conduct these sales in New York and 2019 marks 30 years since the landmark traveling exhibition ‘Dreamings – The Art of Aboriginal Australia’ at the Asia Society galleries introduced the city to this dynamic art movement. Since then, interest in the field has grown continuously, and it is now collected in depth by many of the world’s leading museums and private collectors.”
Timothy Klingender, Sotheby’s Senior Consultant Australian Art

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Untitled 1990, Estimate $250/350,000

Early additions to the inaugural December auction include two masterworks by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, the most internationally acclaimed female Aboriginal artist, emerging from the renowned European Collection of Thomas Vroom. Summer Celebration 1991 and Untitled 1990 (right) are both rare, large-scale, early paintings, and the latter piece was included in the artist’s touring retrospective co-curated by The National Art Center, Tokyo and The National Museum of Australia, Canberra.

Sotheby’s has remained the continuous market leader in the field of Aboriginal Art for more than 20 years, and holds the record for the highest price achieved for Aboriginal Art at auction, as well as the highest overall sale total. Recent sales have included works from some of the world’s most renowned collections, including the Thomas Vroom Collection, the collection of the late Gabrielle Pizzi, and the collection of Fiona Brockhoff. Recent record prices include:

Highest auction price for a living Australian Aboriginal artist: Michael Nelson Tjakamarra, Five Stories, £401,000

Highest auction price for an Australian Indigenous sculpture: Benedict Munkara, Untitled, Male and Female Figures of Purukapali and Bima, £251,000

Highest auction price for an Australian Indigenous artefact: A Broad Shield, Lower Murray River, Early 19th Century, £87,000

Highest auction price for an Australian Indigenous bark painting: Jack Karedada, Namarali – The First One, £100,000


New York | Derek Parsons |+1 212-606-7176 |

New York | Hallie Freer | +1 212-606-7176 |

About Sotheby’s
Sotheby’s has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby’s became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby’s has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris. Sotheby’s offers collectors the resources of Sotheby’s Financial Services, the world’s only full-service art financing company, as well as the collection, artist, estate & foundation advisory services of its subsidiary, Art Agency, Partners. Sotheby’s also presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby's Global Fine Art Division, and three retail businesses: Sotheby’s Wine, Sotheby’s Diamonds, and Sotheby’s Home, the online marketplace for interior design.

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*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.

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