This painting is of museum quality and comes with superb provenance. It has a wonderful exhibition history having been included in the artist’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary art and having been illustrated in the superb book that accompanied the exhibition as well as his catalogue resonne. Bedford was the star artist of the post millennium period with no less than 4 sales recorded over $100,000 between 2007 and 2008 including the $300,000 paid for Joogoomoondiny Grawler Gully 2004 . This work was the same size as the one being offered here. Sales such as these , and those through his estate (the artist passed away in 2007) saw him jump more than 30 places to his current status as the 8th most successful artist of the movement.
'Bedford was born circa 1922 on Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberley. A few years beforehand, Paddy Quilty, the owner of the station (and the man who gave Paddy Bedford his 'Christian' name), was responsible for the murder by strychnine poisoning of a group of Gija men who had killed a milking cow. This massacre has weighed heavily on Bedford throughout his life. He and fellow Jirrawun founder, Timmy Timms (now deceased), were able to recall a corroboree (or joonba) which told the story of the killings. The corroboree, which had never before been seen by a white audience, became the basis of a performance piece, Fire fire burning bright, presented by the Neminuwarlin Performance Group from the East Kimberley at the Perth and Melbourne festivals in 2002.
The massacre also became the subject of a series of paintings by the Jirrawun group that were shown in the exhibitions 'Blood on the Spinifex', at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, and 'True Stories: The Art of the East Kimberley', at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney, both 2003. With the support of Jirrawun patron and former Governor-General of Australia Sir William Deane, the artists aimed through these paintings to have their stories accepted by white Australia. The exhibitions were a powerful reply to revisionist historians such as Keith Windschuttle, author of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002) whose work had thrown into question the veracity of such massacres as the one at Bedford Downs Station.' (J. Eccles, Jirrawun: a unique model, in Art & Australia, vol. 44, I, Spring 2006)
Provenance: Jirrawun Arts, Western Australia (stock PB8 2002.137) Grantpirrie, Sydney Private Collection, Vancouver, Canada Modern and Contemporary Australian and South African Art, Christie's, London, 16 December 2008, lot 78, illustrated Private Collection, Melbourne
Exhibited: Sydney, GRANTPIRRIE, Significant Paintings, 2002 ('This body of work, as always, reflects the land and its spirits, both good and the bad. His land is drenched in the atrocities of white settlement and the history of his own people. He tells the stories of massacres and Dreamings, of caryards and emus. There is a certain urgency of story telling apparent in the vigourous brush strokes, as though he is compelled to speak', G. Serisier in the exhibition catalogue). Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, True Stories: Art of the East Kimberley, 2003.