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Home / News / Aboriginal art: truly magical (and underpriced) (April 2012)

Aboriginal art: truly magical (and underpriced)

April 2012


Marrapinti (2003), by artist Walangkura Napanangka
Marrapinti (2003), synthetic polymers on linen, 91cm x 151cm, by Naata Nungurrayi

Time just rushes by and yet some things remain absolutely timeless. The mention of time always invokes thoughts of great history when I look at the finest works of Aboriginal artists. Although contemporary, they do transcend the present and are a living reminder of the distant past: the Dreamtime.

Hetti Perkins's TV documentary, "Art + Soul", is without doubt one of the most open and sensitive accounts of the Aboriginal art movement in Australia. It again brings to the surface the true magic of the art of these people.

Possibly, the most touching scene for me was when an Aboriginal elder visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) and "sang" a painting. There was a message in the symbols that could be translated into a song. Even Perkins, the AGNSW Curator at the time, was unaware of this hidden message.

This brings me back to what is happening with Aboriginal art in Australia:

  • There are undoubtedly very average paintings on the market, those done for a tourist buyer, not for serious collectors.
  • There is also no doubt that some "galleries" selling Aboriginal art may as well be selling spoons. This is a product for them, nothing more.
  • However, there are some galleries that specialize in "serious" works and it is these "serious" works that collectors should be looking at.

Is it better to pay $US 10,000 for a good painting or $US 2,000 for something decorative? Many only want the decorative... but the real value of the artwork is in its appreciation (not financial) over the years.

Aboriginal art is the only artwork that I am looking at now in Australia. European/Western contemporary Australian art just doesn't touch me and is too regional. This, of course, is my personal view and many would disagree.

However, when one sees the works of young contemporary artists coming onto the Australian Art market at prices defying both skill and logic, and for the same price, or less, one could acquire a good example of Aboriginal work... well, it doesn't make sense for me.

At present, I believe that Australian Aboriginal works are grossly underpriced.

The great generation of women painters, including:

have either passed away, are too old to paint or are nearing that age. Works of these artists are becoming harder to source and the quality of their work cannot be dismissed. Their prices too are rising.

  • We have been fortunate to acquire wonderful examples of Naata Nungurrayi's most representative paintings from the early/mid 2000s when her style changed to that which has won international acclaim. These works are stunning.

  • We have also been able to acquire 2 smaller works by Rosie Nangala Fleming. These works, although small, are of some significance and beauty.

It is only a matter of time until the pricing situation rights itself. These artists are internationally collected and their art and heritage, much respected.

If you would like further information regarding this or any artworks on this website, please contact me directly.
Anthony Smith and the asart team

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Anthony Smith has been invited by Art Antiques Design to share his expertise about art in a series of articles:

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