1928 - 1982
Born c1928, Dick Binyinyuwuy Djarrankuykuy was among the younger generation of artists working at the small island community of Milingimbi in Arnhem Land during the 1950s.
The young Binyinyuwuy was a ‘rebel, only visiting the station to raid the store or make havoc among the young women … After one successful raid he sent a defiant message … that he would return and repeat the performance when he pleased’. (Ann Wells, the wife of the mission superintendent from 1949)
Following this act of rebellion, Rev. Edgar Wells spoke to the village elders, who had put Binyinyuwuy through the ‘law’ and trained him in his craft. He’d been ‘taken into the bush for several months and initiated. A front tooth was knocked out and welts were cut into his body, into which clay was rubbed’(Louis Allen). The elders told Wells that the young man displayed unique talent in painting and making sacred objects. In exchange for a painting, they decided, his transgressions would be forgotten. According to Ann Wells, ‘The painting was so good that he was promptly added to the list of artists and the money he earned was so good that he stayed’.
In the following years, Binyinyuwuy, now a respected artist in the community, produced a plethora of bark paintings, carvings and sculptures. He is known to have painted birrkulda (honey), wurrpan (emu), wan’kurra (bandicoot) and the Djalumbu (hollow log) ceremony of his mother’s clan, the Ngulmarrk ceremony and wititj (olive python) of his Ganalbingu maternal grandmother, and subject matter belonging to his own clan, the Djambarrpuyngu.
His works are included in major collections across Australia and overseas, including the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Museum of Australia, and the Seattle Art Museum.
The auction results for Bininyuwuy are dominated by two works in particular. His record selling bark, which achieved $55,200 through Sotheby’s as early as 1998, and another sold by Bonham’s in 2013 for $30,500. Both were created in the early to mid 1960s for Dorothy Bennett, acting on behalf of US collector Louis Allan. The former depicts a Liyagallawumirri Dua Narra ceremony. The bottom of the first panel shows the dance of the sacred wallaby's. The snake at the bottom indicates that this is only for the old men of the tribe. The top of the panel represents the dance of the freshwater turtle, which is performed next. The turtle is making its way to the waterhole, indicated by the dots in the panel. The zig-zag lines in this panel represent the turtle's tracks in the grass. The other two panels are for the fan-palm dance, which is witnessed by all members of the tribe. The white dots in the panel shows the fruit of the palms.
The latter of the two highest selling works, was resold to Reg Grundy in 1998. The painting shows the fan palms bursting with colour and life in the open forest, refreshed by rain. A goanna can be seen poised on the ground. The lower panel represents a waterhole belonging to the artist's mother's clan, the Gupapuyngu of the Yirritja moiety. We can see the long-necked freshwater tortoises in the waterhole and the zigzag pattern of weeds that cling to their limbs. The lower right-hand panel shows the plains kangaroo (garrtjambal) and the Yirritja lightning snake. A very unusual feature is that the kangaroos (and also the wallaby) are represented in the style of x-ray art, which is more associated with works from Western Arnhem land than the east.
The artist’s 3rd highest price is half that of the former and only 4 others have sold for more than $3,600. In all 43 lots have been offered for sale though a number of these are resales. Bininyuwuy was recognised as a tallented carver and his highest price for a sculptral piece was for a Mokoy Spirit created in 1960 which sold at the Luczo family sale at Deutscher and Hackett in 2016 for $9,760. This transcended the price paid for the second highest record for a three dimensional piece by the artist. Diver Duck created in 1964 sold at Sotheby’s for $9,600 against a presale estimate of just $3,000-5,000.
Bininyuwuy’s success rate at auction is 55% at a healthy average price of $7,383. His 1960s works are relatively rare and highly rated amongst those paintings of the period by his contemporaries including many of the older artists of that time.