Aboriginal art occupies a special place in Australia and 3 of the 6 artists in the Top 10 auction results are Aborigines.
One of the three Aboriginal artists in Australian contemporary art ranking, Dorothy NAPANGARDI , has enjoyed strong demand since 2004 when her first work was presented at auction. In fact, that first work (Karntakurlangu) fetched $78,089 (AUD 110,000), three times its estimate. The piece Mina Mina that fetched $342,028 is part of a series for which the artist was awarded the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2001. Her work, mixing movement and texture, successfully associates aboriginal spiritual questions with the savoir-faire of an ancestral tradition.
Sharing the same aboriginal origins, the artist Lin ONUS spent his life depicting aboriginal landscapes and symbols with greater precision than Napangardi. Beginning his career as an illustrator for tourists, Lin used the Chromos codes and re-contextualised it in the aboriginal tradition. His Water Lillies and Evening Reflections, Dingo Springs which fetched $290,822 in 2006 was the peak of a lofty ascent of his price index in 2006 and 2007 (he died in October 1996). From 1999 to 2007, only 18% of his works offered for sale in auctions failed to sell. His prices are still buoyant with at least half of the works sold since 2010 fetching more than $50,000.
The work of Gordon BENNETT is much more political. A militant artist, Bennet draws inspiration from aboriginal history and the history of Australia. His works question identity with very concrete representations that owe as much to Basquiat and Pollock as to 19th century engravings. Possession Island is a good example of this, based on a Samuel Calvert engraving representing Samuel Cook taking possession of Australia. In 2007 the work fetched $282,304 sending the artist’s price index onto another plane; until then his best auction result had been approximately $22 000. Since then two of his works have sold for between $35,000 and $45,000, but since 2010 only 2 out of 9 works presented at auction sales have found buyers, no doubt carrying excessively high estimates (in effect, only one of the seven unsold works since 2010 was estimated below AUD 28,000 ($25,000).
Contemporary Australian art is today enjoying growing local demand (Australia is ranked 11th globally for sales of Contemporary art) and it is also benefiting from the eastward migration of the core of the global art market. Only a few hours from Asia, Australia is less and less insulated and this is good news for Australian art which so far only has one artist in this ranking (Ron Mueck) whose personal best result was generated outside Australia.
Excerpt taken from Artprice, Contemporary Australian Art (01/20/2012) http://www.artmarketinsight.com/wallet/amidetails/showweb/1642