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The Rod Menzies Estate | Indigenous Art Collection | Auction Part II

Tuesday 5th March 2024

The Rod Menzies Estate | Indigenous Art Collection | Auction Part II

Tuesday 5th March 2024

Cooee Art Leven 17 Thurlow Street Redfern

It's a Wrap!

Two years after his death, the late Rod Menzies’ collection of Australian Aboriginal art has been sold in its entirety.

Menzies’ flirtation with Australian Aboriginal art began in 1999, when he hired Melbourne specialist Vivien Anderson to break into the increasingly lucrative Aboriginal art market that had grown from $715,000 in 1994 to $5.4 million. Anderson held only 2 sales in 1999 and 2000. In 2003 Menzies charged Aboriginal art dealer Adrian Newstead with the task of heading Menzies’ Aboriginal art department.

In a self-described audacious move, Newstead widened the range of art on offer, securing works through his extensive dealer network. With Christies and Mossgreen entering the market in 2004, Australian Aboriginal art sales grew from $6.9 million at the start of the millennium to $26.5 million by 2007 with 60% generated through Adrian Newstead’s Menzies, and Tim Klingender’s Sotheby’s, sales.

In 2008, with the Global Financial Crisis, Newstead, and Menzies parted ways. The art bubble had burst and several competitors departed the field while others were in decline. The secondary market for Aboriginal art dropped year on year until it reached its’ nadir in 2014 at just $5.7 million.

Nine years later in 2017, Cooee Art Auctions debuted, with Newstead and then business partner Mirri Leven at the helm. The venture began with a bang when Emily Kngwarreye’s Earth’s Creation I, sold for $2.1 million. The painting, which set the Australian record price for any Aboriginal artwork in 2017, is still the most valuable painting ever sold by any Australian Female artist. In its first year operating as an auction house Cooee’s sales topped $2.6 million. Leven is now sole owner of the gallery and, going forward, head of the auction house.

With the death of Rod Menzies in April 2022, the Menzies heirs agreed to entrust Newstead with the task of disbursing the father’s extensive 240 work Aboriginal art collection. Though he had sold his share of Cooee art to Mirri Leven by February 2023, Newstead remained in his position as head specialist on The Rod Menzies deaccession sales Parts I and II, which were held in November 2023 and March 2024. The sales realised a total of $3 million incl BP with 100% of all lots sold.

About the Auction

We are pleased to introduce the March 5th auction, headlining Part II of the Indigenous art collection of the late Rod Menzies. Part 1 of the special deaccession offering was held in November 2023 and saw all 103 artworks on offer sold, achieving 130% of the sale’s total pre-sale value.

Rod Menzies took an assertive financial interest in the stock that he consigned. He amassed and cared for an impressive collection of Australian Indigenous artworks which were on permanent display at Noorilum, his estate located between Seymour and Shepparton in Central Victoria.

Menzies was continually growing audiences for Indigenous and Australian art. He toured his finest Indigenous artworks in the exhibition, ‘Masterworks from the Menzies Collection’ to regional galleries throughout Australia between 2006 and 2008. It included several of the large-scale paintings that were included in our November sale along with others that are on offer in this Part II catalogue. Artworks that toured in this sale are: Maggie Napangardi Watson’s Mina Mina Dreaming, 1995 (Lot 34); Judy Watson’s, Women’s Dreaming, 1995 (Lot 35), and two works by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa - Water Story (Lot 33) and Tingari Dreaming, 1997 (Lot 66).

Several of the artworks included in this offering currently hold, or have previously held, the artist’s market records, meaning when purchased they sold for the highest amount any artwork by the artist has sold for. Our cover lot is one such work. Purchased by Rod Menzies in 2008, this large-scale piece depicting aspects of the Mina Mina Dreaming by Maggie Watson (Lot 34) holds the artist’s sold record when last sold for $348,000. The on-going rationalisation of the considerable Rod Menzies estate holdings includes hundreds of important Australian and International paintings, real estate, and a large range of additional assets. For this reason, Mina Mina Dreaming carries a pre-sale estimate of just $90,000 to $150,000 in this deceased estate sale.

Preceding the 87 works in this final tranche of the Menzies Indigenous art collection are a small number of selected pieces being offered from mixed private vendors. These include a lovely watercolour depicting Glen Helen Gorge by Albert Namatjira, carrying an estimate of $30,000-40,000, (Lot 9); and paintings by John Mawurndjul, Kitty Kantilla alongside several pieces by Emily Kam(e) Kngwarray(e) whose solo exhibition is currently on view at the National Gallery of Australia and will be shown in 2025 at the Tate Modern in London. Emily Kngwarreye’s artworks are becoming more and more scarce in the market.

We look forward to welcoming you during the viewing at Cooee Art Leven’s Redfern galleries for this one-of-a-kind deaccession sale of the Menzies collection.

LOTS 1 - 14


LOTS 15 - 101



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