Named the richest man in America three times by Forbes magazine, Media magnate John W Kluge was an avid art collector. After ‘discovering’ Australian Aboriginal art in the late 1980’s, Kluge (arguably more than any other international enthusiast) did more to underpin the rapid rise in appreciation of Aboriginal art, and its ‘veneer of collectability’. During his life, much of this enormous collection was gifted to the University of Virginia. In 2005 a small number of works were sold through Christies.
When Kluge died recently, his residual art collections were disbursed to his old alma mater, Columbia University, and several other minor beneficiaries. Next week 13 works bequeathed to a female relative will be offered in Sotheby’s Important Aboriginal Art sale.
It was through Paul Sumner’s contacts with Christies, that he nabbed the 66 works that will be on offer in his Mossgreen, June 6th sale. The proceeds will used to support Columbia’s student scholarship programs.
Sumner is, in the opinion of this correspondent, the canniest player in the Australian auction market. His single vendor, and estate auctions regularly achieve 90% plus clearances by volume, and 100% plus by value. This sale however should be a real doozy. I expect nothing less than a 200% clearance by value. The sale is nominally worth $324,000 to $507,000 on low and high estimates but should achieve $1.5 million (including buyers premium).
The provenance of the works, the cache of the artists included, and the age of many of the paintings, represent a unique opportunity for Australian collectors, even though they must pay 10% GST on purchases, and should face stiff international competition. (given the works can all be re-exported without running foul of the moveable cultural heritage act).
Expect Uta Uta Tjangala’s Yarla Dreaming (Lot7) to sell for at lest $35,000 hammer against its high estimate of $6000. Both Lots 13 and 14 should achieve a similar result against $7,000 high estimates. Lot 15, Uta Uta’s lovely 1971/72 Big Corroboree with Water Dreaming Sacred Tjurungas should achieve more than $100,000, though estimated at only $30,000 to $40,000. Charlie Tarawa’s Nyinga Dreaming, circa 1972, should also push toward $100,000 against its $15,000 to $20,000.
While there are many works worthy of mention Bush Tucker Dreaming in the Sandhills ,1980, an enormous delicately executed 208 x 335 cm canvas by Papunya master Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, is estimated at only $30,000 to $40,000. On his records alone, it should sell for no less than $350,000 but in the current market will still do well if it achieves $250,000. Anything less would be one of the bargains of the year. Works of this quality, size and provenance by one of the greatest masters do not find their way in to the market all that often.
There are many other works worthy of mention, but I will leave their ‘discovery’ to art connoisseurs. There are lovely barks and Arnhem Land works on paper, and fine small examples from many regions. Anyone with a love of Aboriginal art, and some spare cash in their pocket, should be after a piece of the action.