Amata, Warakurna, Kintore, Bathurst Island, Maningrida, Yirrkala, Turkey Creek, Balgo . . .
In May-June, I was privileged to be one of seven participants in the first official tour for American collectors of Aboriginal art, organized by the government of Australia’s Northern Territory and Austrade, the country’s trade development department.
The Collectors met up in Yulara, near Uluru in the “red heart” of Australia. From there, we traveled first to the Pitjantjatjara lands south and west of Uluru, then to the deserts of the Northern Territory, the foothills of Western Australia’s Kimberleys, the Tiwi Islands, and Arnhem Land, along the coast. We traveled more than 4500 miles by light aircraft and four-wheel-drive vehicle to visit 20+ Aboriginal art centres. We also spent time in Alice Springs and Darwin, meeting with government officials and arts agencies, museum curators, arts writers, gallery owners and private dealers.
My husband, David Lowe, and I had visited many of the same art centres before. They are government or community-run facilities where artists receive basic training and obtain art materials, and where they can paint, carve or try other media such as screen-printing. Some are the simplest concrete block sheds or converted housing, others are small modern buildings. The professional managers at these centres are usually the artists’ only connection to the marketplace. These centres are also our primary source of Aboriginal art because they treat the artists – whether internationally-acclaimed “stars” or new artists just launching their careers – with respect and fairness.
Prior to the Tour, there was time in Sydney to visit several leading Australian collectors of contemporary and Aboriginal art, and to attend the Lawson-Menzies auction, during which a stunning Emily Kngwarreye became the first Aboriginal painting to break the $1 million mark ($1.4 million), when it was bought by Tim Jennings of Alice Springs. In Sotheby’s auction in July, that record was more than broken, with the sale of Hank Ebes’ enormous Clifford Possum Tjapaltjari painting for more than $2 million. Some of you may have met Tim and/or Hank during their visits to Booker•Lowe.
After the Tour, I headed to Broome, Australia’s pearling capital, to explore the possibility of exhibiting paintings by the talented artists of the Bidyadanga community, then back to Sydney and home.
Please watch this space for news of art exhibitions that we are planning based on this extraordinary journey. And, a special thank you to all the dedicated people from the government of Northern Territory and Austrade, and all those we met along the way, for helping us offer you a window into the ever-changing world of Aboriginal art!
If you’d like to read more about the trip and see photos, check out fellow collector Will Owen’s excellent blog, “Aboriginal Art & Culture: An American Eye,” at http://homepage.mac.com/will_owen/iblog/.
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Tel: 713.880.1541 Fax: 713.862.8364