ARTS, feature, NEWS -

Modern masterpiece breaks auction record

One of Australia’s most famous contemporary paintings, ‘Earth’s Creation I’ by the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, sold at auction last night for $2.1 million, breaking its own record for the highest price achieved at auction for an Australian female artist.

Fine Art Bourse (F.A.B.) and Cooee Art Marketplace, the newly formed auction house partnership behind the auction, revealed that it was acquired by Tim Olsen who has recently established a gallery in New York on behalf of a client.

The auction was originally launched last Tuesday evening at Chifley Tower, in the centre of the financial district of Sydney.

However, the auction was postponed due to a server overload due to either the thousands of people logging on simultaneously to watch the auction online or as a result of a cyberattack. An investigation is underway.

The auction was rescheduled for last night and the venue moved to the Oxford Street Paddington premises of CooeeArt, Australia’s oldest Aboriginal art gallery.

Earth’s Creation 1 has broken the auction record for any Australian female artist, a record it had itself set in 2007 when it sold at an auction for $1,050,000.

It has now broken the world auction record for an Aboriginal artist, previously set by Clifford Possum’s ‘Going, going, gone’ for $2.4m on July 24 2007.

Having been shown at the QAG, AGNSW, NGV, NMA, AGSA, National Gallery Japan, National Museum of Osaka and the Venice Biennale, Earth’s Creation I has the most impressive exhibition history of any Australian contemporary painting.

“This may be the last time an indigenous painting of this calibre will appear at auction for a very long time if ever,” CooeeArt MarketPlace founder Adrian Newstead said.

“It has been granted an export permit and we are delighted that it will go to a place where it can be appreciated by Australian and International audiences and enhance the standing and reputation of the entire Aboriginal arts, community and culture.”

Other notable works sold at the hammer price included Lot 14, an untitled work from Jan Billycan, which sold for $4500, Lot 1, a much admired work by Minnie Pwerle, which sold for $6000, and lot 32 Yala Yala Gibbs Tjungurrayi, which sold for $8000.

“This has been an extraordinary journey. The brokering of this stunning painting with my colleagues at Cooee has been one of the highlights of my 40-year career in the auction industry,” auctioneer Tim Goodman said.

‘Earth’s Creation’ last changed hands in 2007 when it was purchased by Tim Jennings, the owner of the Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Cultural Museum at Alice Springs, for just over $1 million.

At the time it set a record for Aboriginal work and for that of an Australian female artist, which it still holds.

But Adrian Newstead said when the global financial crisis bit, Mbantua closed its gallery space and there was nowhere to display the painting. It has spent the past year packed away in a crate.

He said Mr Jennings wanted people to be able to see the work.

Kngwarreye, who passed away in 1996, only took up painting in her eighties at Utopia, north-east of Alice Springs where she lived.

In the years until her death, she produced about 3000 works.

Mr Newstead said if the sale set a record it would be boon for the Indigenous art industry.

He said if the buyer was from overseas it would not necessarily be a bad thing for Australian art.

He said works in museums and galleries overseas would enhance the place of Aboriginal Australian art internationally.



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