104 Career Overall Rank
13 2020 Market Rank
For a painter who mainly created small barks Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru's results at auction have been impressive. He died in 1988, before the boom in the Aboriginal art market, and though his paintings are viewed as principaly ethnographic, he was prolific, as evidenced by the fact that no less than 117 works have been offered for sale at public auction. Paintings by this artist have appeared for sale every single year since the first specialist Aboriginal art auction was held in 1994 with his highest grossing years being 2013 and 2014 when 8 of 10, and 9 of 11 works sold for $57,035 and $53,848 respectively. During these two years the artist's highest and second highest results were achieved.
His record price was actually set for a lot containing three small bark paintings being deaccessioned from the Giffen collection in the United States of America. They had originally been purchased from the Church Missionary Society in 1967. However Murrumurru's second highest result is the most ever paid for a single work. The painting Two Kangaroos and Mimih Hunter was offered in Bonham's sale of the legendary Clive Evatt Collection. It achieved $20,740 inclusive of buyer's premium against a pre-sale estimate of $8,000-12,000.The sale of these two lots transcended the artists previous record which was established in 2009 when another USA collector, (William McE. Miller, Jr) offered A Burial Ceremony c 1960 for sale. Its sale price, $18,000 was twice the previous highest record (set in 2005 at $9,600).
Overall, paintings by Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru have had a very good success rate at auction (72%) though the average price of his paintings has been just $3,738. However many of these were sold during auctions prior to 2005. The average price of paintings sold from 2009 to 2015 for instance is $6,050. 13 paintings have sold for more than $5,000 and a further 25 for more than $3000. His highest AIAM100 ranking was 69th most successful artist of the movement in 2001. He fell to 111th by 2012 but has slowly risen back up the ranks since that time to settle at 90th, a place he held in both 2014 and 2015.â€¨
Amongst Western Arnhem land bark painters of his generation there are few more successful. Only Bobby Nganjmirra, David Malangi, Mick Kubarrku, Lofty Nadjamerrek, and David Yirawala have outdone him. Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru spent a lifetime creating lovely artworks of the greatest integrity and cultural importance. They will always reward their owner with great pleasure and a key to the traditional life of Kuwinjku custodians.
Dick Nguleingulei Murrumurru lived most of his life on the Liverpool River plateau in West Arnhem Land, where he was born around 1920. His country was Yayminjdji, a Yirridjdja moiety clan estate in the stone country west of the Liverpool river. He briefly attended school at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) in the 1930s and later worked as a crocodile shooter and at a timber camp in the Jim Jim area (present day Kakadu National Park). He also spent a short time at Pine Creek and Goodparla station. From 1965 he spent more time at the Gunbalanya township, dedicating himself to painting. Here he married a woman from the Naborlhborlh family but did not have any children. Nevertheless, a number of later Gunbalanya artists (such as Reuben Manakgu) have direct lineage to his family and regard him as an artistic forebear.
Murrumurru was a versatile, inventive and eclectic bark painter. Stylistically his works range from finely detailed, naturalistic animals to more simply painted quirky figures, though there is much work in-between. Employing a range of Kunwinjku painting techniques, he often combined them in single works. For instance, the graceful parallel red and yellow rarrk (cross-hatching) of the classic rock art style, was often combined with the cross-hatching originally associated with painting for the Mardayin ceremony. He experimented with large blocks of infill in single colours and other patterns. He often used curved rarrk in his cross-hatched patterns, and combined blocks of rarrk with hatching at many different and arhythmic angles. His compositions often exhibit natural framing techniques, with figures and landscape features aligning to the rectangular shape of the bark. His works are capable of both refined grace and imaginative, discordant style.
Nguleingulei's subject matter is often focused on the Arnhem Plateau stone country of his home. Stone country animals such as kumoken (freshwater crocodile) and ngarrbek (echidna) are painted with a hunter’s attuned sense of proportion, anatomy and personality. He also painted stories and spirits from the stone country, such as the Wardbukarra-wardbukarra from nearby Manmoyi and the Mimih spirits that inhabit the escarpment.
From the 1980s he worked primarily at Marlkawo outstation, nearby his own country, often painting alongside Bardayal (Lofty) Nadjamerrek. He died there in 1988 in tragic circumstances.
His works have been included in many major exhibitions, including Keepers of the Secrets at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1990, Dreamings in 1988 in New York, Art of the First Australians in Kobe in 1986, Kunwinjku Bim at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1984 and The Art of Aboriginal Australia which toured North America in 1974-76.
Profile author: Dan Kennedy
Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council, held by the National Museum of Canberra.; Artbank, Sydney.; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.; Australian Museum, Sydney.; Berndt Museum of Anthropology, University of Western Australia.; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.; Museum of Contemporary Art, Arnotts Collection, Sydney.; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.; The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth.; The Kelton Foundation, Santa Monica, U.S.A.;
2008 - Form and Function - A Collection of fine 18th and 19th century Ethnographic Objects and Bark Paintings , featuring works by: David Daymirringu Malangi, Dick Ngulungulei, George Milpurrurru, Jacky Kalakala, January Nongyarri, Jimmy Njiminjuma, Mickey Ganambarr, Daypurryun, Nandabitta, Narritjin, Paddy Compass Namatbarra, Peter Bandjurljurl, Peter Maralalwanga, Philip Gudthaykudthay, Tom Djimpurrpurr, Wally Mandarrk, Wattie Karuwaram, Yama, at Coo-ee Aborignal Art, Sydney.
1990 - Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
1988 - Yolngu, Aboriginal cultures of north Australia, The Royal Pavillion, Art Gallery & Museums, Brighton, United Kingdom; Dreamings, the art of Aboriginal Australia, The Asia Society Galleries, New York; The Inspired Dream, Life as art in Aboriginal Australia, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and touring internationally.
1987 - The Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1986 - The Art of the First Australians, Kobe City Museum, Japan.
1985 - The Second National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1984/85 - Kunwinjku Bim, Western Arnhem Land Paintings from the collection of the Aboriginal Arts Board, National Gallery of Victoria.
1984 - The First National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
1974 to 1976 - Art of Aboriginal Australia, touring Canada, Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Ltd.
1974 - Australian Aboriginal Art from the Louis A. Allen Collection, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, California Palace of the Legion of Honor
1970 - Australian Aboriginal Art, The Art Galleries, University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara.
1969, - Australian Aboriginal Art - The Louis A. Allen Collection, R. H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.
1982, One of Murrumurru's paintings was used on the Australian 75c stamp issued in 1982.
1988, Completed a frieze of paintings on a fibreglass rock wall for the world rock art conference held in Darwin in 1988.
Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council,1979, Oenpelli Bark Painting, Ure Smith, Sydney. (C) ; Allen, L., 1975, Time Before Morning: Art and Myth of the Australian Aborigines, Thomas Crowell Company, New York. ; Berndt, R. M. and Berndt, C. H. with Stanton, J., 1982, Aboriginal Australian Art, a Visual Perspective, Methuen Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney. ; Brody, A., 1984, Kunwinjku Bim: Western Arnhem Land Paintings from the Collection of the Aboriginal Arts Board, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.(C) ; Isaacs, J., 1989, Australian Aboriginal Paintings, Weldon Publishing, New South Wales. ; Mc Donald, J., (comp) 1986, Australian Artist Index, Arts Library Society, Australia and New Zealand, Sydney. ; Norton, F., 1975, Aboriginal Art, Western Australian Art Gallery Board with the assistance of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council. ; O'Ferrall, M., 1990, Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland in the Collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. (C) ; Taylor, L., 1989, 'Seeing the 'inside': Kunwinjku paintings and the symbol of the divided body.' In Morphy, H. (ed.), 1989, Animals into Art, Unwin Hyman, London. (C) ; Sutton, P. (ed.), 1988, Dreamings: the Art of Aboriginal Australia, Viking, Ringwood, Victoria. (C) ; West, M.K.C., (ed.), 1988, The Inspired Dream, Life as art in Aboriginal Australia, exhib. cat., Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. ; 1974, Art of Aboriginal Australia, exhib. cat., Rothmans of Pall Mall Canada Limited. (C)
Discovery Media. current. NATSIVAD. Melbourne. Documentation Pty Ltd.
National Museum of Australia. 2013. Old masters : Australia's great bark artists (exh. cat). Canberra. National Museum of Australia Press.
Aboriginal Arts Board. 1979. Oenpelli bark painting. Sydney. Ure Smith.
Altman, Jon et. al. 2004. Crossing country : the alchemy of western Arnhem Land art. Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Marlkawo, Western Arnhem Land , Western Arnhem Land , Western Arnhem Land
Mimi Spirits, Ngalyod Rainbow Serpent, Kangaroo, Echidna, Lumaluma, Wubarr Ceremony, Crocodile
Natural Earth Pigment on Eucalyptus Bark