An Australian indigenous painter in his late seventies leaves the care of his friend and gallerist in Melbourne and returns home to Alice Springs. Known for his slow work and having been in poor health, questions have come up about the emergence of 18 new paintings on the market with the collective price of $1.5m. The painter is Tommy Watson. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald on the controversy:
Watson speaks little English but his niece, Jorna Newbury, said the artist had an injured foot and could not walk when he left Mr Ioannou’s home in Melbourne. But his health had recovered since returning to Alice Springs.
”He’s happy and he’s working,” she said. ”He is happy to be back with the family.”
Ms Newbury said she and a carer, Fabian Conti, helped Watson with his paints and mixed colours but the canvases were his work alone.
Ken McGregor, the co-author of a book on the artist’s work, Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson, said the paintings in the Piermarq show were not collaborative works.
McGregor said Watson had a ”creative burst” and was in good health after leaving Melbourne.
”I’ve known Tommy for the past six years quite extensively and his health has always been good,” McGregor said.
Piermarq director Rob Russell admitted Watson was not a young man and did not work particularly quickly.
”I’ve sat with Tommy while he’s painted some of the works included in this show,” Mr Russell said.
”I’ve spent multiple trips in the desert working with him, Chris and Jorna and there is no sense of slowing in the old man and no sense of retirement.”
Doubt Cast on $1.5m of Indigenous Art (Sydney Morning Herald)