Thomas Vroom’s collection of Australian Aboriginal art will be auctioned in London this June. The sale recognizes the once vibrant international collector base for Aboriginal art that has been choked off by legislation in Australia
Like Vroom, American John Wilkerson was a VIP buyer at Sotheby’s Australia through the boom and bust period. In 2008, The Age reported that his half-million dollar purchase of a painting by Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri had been awaiting decision on an export licence for over a year before being denied export permission.
In a 2012 interview, Wilkerson declared he was abandoning the collection of Aboriginal art because of this policy, and that he knew of other collectors in the US and Europe doing likewise. When asked about the future of his important collection of early Papunya Tula paintings , he replied: ‘At one time I seriously considered an Australian home, but given our passion for connoisseurship, scholarship and education through sharing, I think the collection is better situated outside a system burdened by poorly administered and underfunded protectionism.’
D’lan Davidson, former head of Aboriginal art at Sotheby’s after Klingender (and now the same at Mossgreen) has made his views clear on this topic:
‘I have witnessed the detrimental effect this legislation has had on the international market since 1999. A once buoyant international trade amounting to 50% of our market has slowly and surely been strangled into nonexistence. Contemporary works of art made for sale are now getting caught up in this mess.’
Red tape driving the Aboriginal art market offshore (ArtsHub Australia)