As predicted some time ago on AAD, Sotheby’s is moving its Aboriginal art auctions from London to New York in November. There contemporary canvases and historic artefacts will hang in the auction house’s revamped galleries alongside blue-chip modern and contemporary art offerings. Buyers of Richters and Twomblys will have a chance to see the best of Australia’s Indigenous art, says Tim Klingender, senior consultant for Australian art, echoing the views of Larry Gagosian and collector/actor/writer, Steve Martin, whose Aboriginal art collection – ‘Desert Painters of Australia‘ – is on show at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery until July 3.

For its November auction, Sotheby’s has secured works from the retiring Dutch collector, Thomas Vroom. These include paintings by the great Emily Kame Kngwarreye, whose large-scale ‘Summer Celebration’ (1991) comes with an estimate of US$300,000-$500,000. Emily’s lovely early work with layers of yam roots peering through the dotting, ‘Untitled’ (1990) is also offered. International art taste comes and goes but, Klingender says: The market is now more open to works that are not part of the western canon.

Klingender says that Sotheby’s – the first international auction house to offer Australian indigenous art outside Australia or Europe in newly expanded galleries in New York – would show Aboriginal art concurrently with its contemporary art sales, capitalising on an ideal crossover market.

He notes a growing institutional focus on Aboriginal art in the US, including three major touring exhibitions from the collection of Debra and Dennis Scholl that were presented at such venues as the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, while the last (of Memorial Poles) is currently in Reno. Other examples include the Harvard Art Museums’ 2016 show ‘Everywhen: the Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia‘, and the Menil Collection’s forthcoming exhibition Mapa Wiya: (Your Map’s Not Needed): Aboriginal Art from the Fondation Opale, set to open in Houston in September.

Sotheby’s launched its Aboriginal art category in 1997 at its Sydney outpost (sic), where sales were held until 2009 before being introduced in London from 2015 to 2018. The auction house set the sales record for an Aboriginal work of art by a living artist in London in 2016, when Michael Nelson Jagamara’s ‘Five Stories’ (1984) brought £401,000, doubling its top estimate. In the same sale, Benedict Munkara’s ‘Untitled’ (Male and Female Figures of Purukapali and Bima)‘ set the record for an Australian Indigenous sculpture, netting £251,000 (est £30,000-£50,000). In previous sales, the auction house also achieved records for Australian Indigenous artefacts and bark paintings – which, surprisingly was set by Jack Karedada for ‘Namarali The First One’ at £100,000.