Love Australia`s most expensive Aboriginal Painting

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri`s most valuable and iconic painting, Warlugulong 1977, (lot 114, estimate £755,000-1,050,000) will be exhibited in London, 23-26 June, prior to auction with Sotheby`s in Australia. This painting is set to break Clifford Possum`s current record of £170,000 for Man`s Love Story 1993-1994, set by Sotheby`s in 2005, and to break the record for the most expensive work of Aboriginal art sold at auction: £438,000 for Emily Kame Kngwarreye`s Earth Creation.


Born in Anmatyerre lands in a dried-up creek bed, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri became the most famous Aboriginal artist of his generation, he received the Order of Australia and was a guest of the Queen of England visiting Buckingham Palace (famously in morning suit and painted sand shoes). A major mid career survey of his paintings was exhibited at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1998.

Clifford Possum`s iconic Warlugulong 1977 is considered by many to be the most significant Western Desert or `dot` painting in a private collection. In this monumental, powerful and profound painting the artist successfully illustrates the complex webbing of powerful sacred stories that weave their way throughout his country. Possum uses inventive conceptual ideas and techniques which successfully invite the viewer into an indigenous way of conceptualising Australia. The sale will provide an opportunity for a leading museum or major private collection to secure what is arguably one of the most important Australian paintings of the 20th century.

Also included in this travelling exhibition is Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri`s most acclaimed work, Two Men Dreaming at Kuluntjarranya, 1984, (lot 51, estimate: £167,000 -251,000). Featured in two of the fields most respected exhibitions: Dreamings, The Art of Aboriginal Australia, at the Asia Society Galleries, New York; and Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, it is considered by collectors to be one of the most aesthetically beautiful and exceptional paintings of the movement.

Gordon Bennett`s Possession Island 1991, (lot 100, estimate: £126,000 – 209,000) is the most significant post modern Aboriginal artwork to appear at auction. This iconic appropriation of an image at the moment of the colonisation of the continent of Australia is one of a series of major `history paintings` created by Bennett from 1989. Each of Bennett`s `history paintings` is allegorically topical in that they tap into social forces at work within the nation. Painted in 1991, Possession Island harks back to 1988, the official bicentenary of European settlement, and 1993 when the Mabo judgement was handed down in the High Court of Australia, for the first time recognising in law Indigenous ownership of the land prior to settlement.

Among the major works from the Kimberley region of Australia is Rover Thomas` Wurlangawarrin Salt Pan 1988 (lot 125, estimate: £159,000 – 188,000), a classic painting representing a salt pan from an aerial perspective. This painting shows the artist`s intuitive sense of composition, rendering a site of spiritual significance through a rich visually textured surface. This painting was included in the artist`s exhibition at the Australian Pavilion at the 1990 Venice Biennale, the first time an Aboriginal artist had been chosen to represent Australia.

Other highlights include a 19th century drawing by Tommy McRae, and many exceptional 19th century artefacts, including rare Queensland shields and early and fine clubs. The exhibition in London will include early bark paintings and major works by many of the most sought after artists of the last 30 years including Sunfly Tjampitjin, Wimmitji Tjapangati, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Alec Mingelmanganu, and Charlie Numbulmoore (lot 28, estimate £63,000-83,500).

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