First we had the Chinese government relentlessly pressuring Christie’s to stop the sale of the Zodiac clock animal heads because they could not get any traction with the owner of the statues, Pierre Bergé.
Now, the Tasmanian Green Party seems to have taken their strategy lessons from the Chinese leadership. They’re calling for Sotheby’s to stop the sale of Benjamin Law’s busts of two 19th Century Aboriginal leaders, Truganini and Woureddy.
“If the others won’t do the right thing, then the State and Federal Governments should purchase them and hand them back to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community,” said Mr McKim.
The Sydney Morning Herald points out that
The 1836 busts of Tasmanian Aboriginal leaders Woureddy and his wife Truganini are set to fetch up to $700,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne on Monday. […] Sotheby’s spokeswoman Anne Wall said the sculptures are only one pair of multiple sets held at numerous art galleries and institutions. […] The patinated plaster busts, about 75cm tall, were originally bought by Hobart convict turned businessman Judah Solomon and were made by Benjamin Law, who knew Truganini and her husband, in the 1830s. The Solomon family has always owned the works but they were on loan to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for 26 years until they helped open the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra last year. […] Others sets of these busts by Benjamin Law are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, South Australian Museum (on loan to Art Gallery of South Australia), Australian Museum (on loan to Art Gallery of New South Wales), Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, British Museum and Musée de lHomme, while individual busts are held in numerous other institutions, a Sotheby’s statement said.
Aboriginal Busts Auction Sparks Outcry (Sydney Morning Herald)