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AUCTION RESULTS - The Rod Menzies Estate | Indigenous Art Collection | Part II

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.


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