Sotheby’s Aboriginal art sale on Monday night is likely to see prices equal those of earlier sales of white-fella art this year.
That means a discount of 20 to 30 per cent on the prices that were being paid before the global credit crunch.
But, as with European art sales, the best paintings hold their value while the middle to lower end drops away.
Buyers in the boom were too willing to pay prices that did not reflect real worth.
But Sotheby’s Aboriginal art sale at its Melbourne gallery in Armadale has some standout works. There are paintings by Rover Thomas and Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.
There is also a huge two-metre by five-metre canvas by sisters Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Ngarta Jinny Bent.
It was painted in France during the Biennale de Lyon in 2000 and relates to land claim paintings.
The paintings show ownership, a pictorial deed, in this case of 10 big waterholes in Walmajarri country in the Great Sandy Desert.
Strangely, the colours have strong greens and blues and look like Caribbean art but they are the colours surrounding waterholes or springs that form an oasis.
It makes the painting unique and should attract a bid from one of the national galleries with an estimate between $80,000 and $120,000.
The NGV, in particular, will surely take an interest in Corroboree by William Barak.