Eloise King – The Sunday Telegragh 2011

Eloise King – The Sunday Telegragh 2011

THERE?S no doubt Aboriginal art is big business ? at a recent Sotheby?s Australia auction in Melbourne, a large Paddy Bedford canvas,

Biriyalji (Fish Hole), sold for $120,000, and a Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri piece, Men’s Dreaming, went for $162,000.

But those in the know will tell you the most important thing when choosing Aboriginal art is that you like what you buy.

Art historian and curator Djon Mundine says it’s ridiculous to focus on the financial side of art. “Talking about art as pure dollar return on investment is just stupid,” Mundine says. “Buy things that catch your eye and collect what you like, because you’re the one who has to live with it.

“Some of the best collections of art are from people who said, ‘I like that,’ and bought it, just as many pieces that have been the hottest property on the market have turned out to be lemons.”

Bill Gregory, whose Annandale Galleries exhibits some of the country’s most reputable Aboriginal artists, says there are some guiding principles to follow for a good buy:

Start at a reputable gallery: You are far more likely to find work with quality and providence if it comes from a reputable gallery that has a history in dealing in Aboriginal art;

Get proper paperwork: Aboriginal art sourced through indigenous community art centres come with certificates and paperwork, with the name and details of the artists and their story. “All of our bark paintings have the artist’s story pasted to the back of them as well as a copy that is given to the collector,” says Gregory.

Look at an artist’s CV: The more galleries, museums and catalogues the artist has appeared in, and the more awards received, the better. “You can’t expect someone young to have their name out all over the world, but that should be reflected in the price,” Gregory says.

(from left to right in picture)

JOHN MAWURNDJUL

Untitled 2011, $27,500, 193×52.5cm, www.annandalegalleries.com.au

THE internationally renowned artist, who featured on the cover of Time in 2006, has had 25 works in the National Gallery of Australia, a permanent installation in the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, and a major retrospective catalogue of his work exhibited at the Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland. This untitled work features earth ochres on bark.

KARLA DICKENS

The Black Virgin, $6200, 110x110cm,

www.karladickens.com.au

PICKED by Djon Mundine as one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary indigenous talents, Karla is Wiradjuri, born in Sydney in 1967. The Black Virgin, a  mixed media work, using paint on canvas and a vintage tablecloth, depicts a mother giving birth to a divine child, seen as a spiritual aspect of herself.

JASON WING

Midnight Swing, $3300, 100x100cm, www.arc1gallery.com

URBAN artist Jason Wing was hand-picked by Mundine to be shown at a contemporary Aboriginal art exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery next year. This piece, inspired by a dream, features spray paint on recycled building signage. “I often paint my dreams; it’s an expression of modern-day Dreamtime,” says Wing. “My work deals a lot with hope for the next generation, and this is an emotive work about how we all feel swinging; the freedom and pure joy.”

SUSAN MARAWARR

Mimih Spirit 2011, $1450, 183x7cm, www.annandalegalleries.com.au

AS the daughter of artists, and the sister of John Mawurndjul, Susan has had access to excellent teachers. She is an accomplished printmaker, sculptor, weaver and bark painter who has toured the US, promoting the work of female printmakers and supervising bark-painting workshops. This wood sculpture, decorated with earth ochres, represents the Dreamtime spirits who taught Aboriginal people how to paint. “The black and white colouring is unusual,” says Gregory.