Indigenous Legacies: Aboriginal Art Highlights

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Launch Slideshow

Sotheby's forthcoming auction of Aboriginal Art includes exceptional artworks by indigenous Australians spanning more than two hundred years, ranging from stone carved artefacts through to recent works by contemporary art stars. Of particular significance are the early bark paintings and figurative sculptures from Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands consigned from the Fiona Brockhoff Collection, the greatest collection of these rare figures to be offered at auction. The sale also includes 17 paintings and sculptures from the Estate of Gabrielle Pizzi, the trailblazing dealer and collector who was a pioneer in promoting the field in museum exhibtions internationally over two decades. The highlight of her collection is Michael Jagamara Nelson's Five Storieswhich is almost certainly the most published and exhibited Aboriginal artwork in existence. 

Aboriginal Art
21 September | London

Indigenous Legacies: Aboriginal Art Highlights

  • Nym Djimungurr, Namarrkon, The Lightning Man, circa 1963.
    Estimate £10,000-15,000.
    Nym Djinmungurr’s exquisite depiction of Namarrkon, The Lightning Man, is to my knowledge his finest bark painting. Executed at virtually the same time that he and his painting compatriot Nadjombolmi worked together producing related imagery on the iconic rock art site of Nourlangie, it is also of unusually large size and in outstanding condition. 



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  • Artist Unknown, Untitled, Mimih Figures, circa 1950s.
    Estimate £15,000-25,000.
    This early depiction of male spirit figures by an unknown artist, is reminiscent of the refined and elegant rock art found in the escarpment country of Western Arnhem Land. The bark’s jagged upper edge acts to crown the image of these beautifully balanced figures. 



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  • Michael Nelson Jagamara, Five Stories, 1984. Estimate £150,000-200,000.
    Michael Nelson Jagamara’s Five Stories is often referred to as the most published Australian painting of the 1980s, and this iconic work has almost certainly been exhibited and published more than any other Aboriginal painting. It is remarkable for its inherent depiction of several narratives in one resolved composition, and ''utterly original'' in its painterly technique. Acquired by legendary dealer Gabrielle Pizzi when first exhibited at her gallery, it is offered on the secondary market for the first time.



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  • Benedict Palmeiua Munkara, Untitled, Male and Female Figures of Purukapali and Bima. Estimate £30,000-50,000.
    I have been entranced by this pair of figures by Munkara since I first encountered them in the living room of the highly respected art dealer Mary Macha twenty years ago. Exquisitely carved and painted, these serene depictions of the Tiwi ancestors are, to my mind, the finest Australian Indigenous figurative sculptures extant. 



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  • Aurangnamirri Wommatakimmi (Young Brook), Untitled, circa 1950s. Estimate £12,000-18,000.
    This powerful figure by Aurangnamirri has a haunting presence, It is carved out of dense and heavy ironwood, and painted in roughly executed traditional designs, with chunky remains of beeswax on chin and jaw, where a Tiwi ceremonial false beard was originally attached. The large pink phallus suggests that it may be a depiction of Tapara, the adulterous brother of the god king Purukapali.



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  • Unknown Artist, Untitled. Estimate £7,000-10,000.
    One of two remarkable Central Desert watercolours, formerly in the collection of the anthropologist Theodor Strehlow, these beautiful drawings show designs found on traditional ritual objects carved in stone and wood. Painted almost 25 years prior to the beginnings of the Western Desert painting movement at Papunya in 1971, they of great historical significance.



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  • Shorty Lungkata Tjungurrayi, Sandhill Dreaming, circa 1972.
    Estimate £50,000-70,000.
    Shorty Lungkata’s Sandhill Dreaming, needs to be seen first hand to be truly appreciated. It has been included in the two most important exhibitions on Western Desert painting and when encountered this mysterious jewel-like image literally glows from the wall.



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  • John Takamarra, Untitled, 1972. Estimate £45,000-60,000.
    This early painting on board by John Takamarra is appearing for the first time at auction. The fuschia pink paint is almost fluorescent, and artists delicate application of paint displays a unique visual language.



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  • Charlie Numbulmoore, Untitled, Wanjinas. Estimate £50,000-70,000.
    Legendary Kimberley rock art painter Numbulmore’s depiction of Wanjinas, insects, birds and reptiles is remarkable artwork. Of the 20 or so known images by the artist about half are executed on salvaged or found material such distressed plywood, masonite, or slate, and this larger example is painted on to a large piece of cardboard. Photographed in situ at the time of it’s collection in 1970 by Tom McCourt, it’s provenance is exceptional. 



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  • Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Tingari Cycle at a Site Adjacent to Wikinkarra, 1994. Estimate £75,000-100,000.
    One of Ronnie Tjampitjinpa’s most acclaimed paintings, this minimalist masterwork holds a self-assured spirit, and its bold balanced colours remind me of an early classic phase Navajo Indian chief’s blanket. 



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  • George Tjungurrayi, Snake Dreaming at Mululuangulngy, 1997.
    Estimate £20,000-30,000.
    I first encountered this painting in the artist’s first solo exhibition at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. The gallery was hung with a dozen or so, large scale paintings, similar in style, though in a wide variety of subtle colour combinations. It was a room I’ll never forget. 



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  • Warlimpirringa Tjapaltjarri, Untitled, 2007. Estimate £50,000-80,000.
    Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri is arguably the most internationally sought after contemporary Australian Indigenous artist, and this example is a large scale masterwork. Painted by an artist who had first contact with non-indigenous people in 1984 it is a powerful statement of his spiritual connection to his country. 



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