Rebecca Thurlow of the WSJ’s Scene Asia blog is tracking the Aboriginal art market. There’s good news and bad news. The bad news was that yesterday’s sale at Bonhams was a bust even though the firm had planted its flag in the Aboriginal auction market:
Of the 145 items in the catalogue, only 68 lots sold, bringing a total of A$744,168, excluding the auction-house premium. The auction was expected to fetch up to A$1.8 million.
Most of the items that did sell went at the lower end of the estimate range or below it. Another painting by Mr. Thomas, “Booralbun,” featured on the cover of the auction catalog and estimated to sell for A$100,000-A$120,000, brought just A$68,0000. Yet the private collector who sold the work made a solid gain, having bought the work from the Holmes a Court Collection at a Sotheby’s auction for A$46,000 in 1999.
The good news is that new collectors from outside Australia are coming into the market sensing an opportunity and attracted by international tours of Aboriginal art:
“It isn’t going to get any cheaper than this,” said art collector and media consultant Les Margulis who purchased a carved wooden figure by Stanislaus Puruntatameri for A$1,200, below the A$1,500 low estimate.
International interest in the auction proved stronger than local interest, with most buyers of major lots phoning in from the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, London and Singapore.
Aboriginal Art Auction Flops (Scene Asia/Wall Street Journal)