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Sotheby’s to Hold First Auction of Aboriginal Art in New York

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Summer Celebration, 1991, is estimated at $300,000–$500,000.

COURTESY SOTHEBY’S

Sotheby’s is relocating its Aboriginal art auction from London to New York, moving the sale—to be timed with this year’s November auction of contemporary art—to be the first of its kind outside Australia or Europe. The auction will be led by Tim Klingeder, who has overseen Sotheby’s Aboriginal art sales since 1996. (The house had held auctions for art of the kind in Australia, from 1997 to 2009, and in London, from 2015 through last year.)

Klingeder told ARTnews, “The largest percentage of buyers from our recent London Aboriginal art sales were from the United States, and while the field is of global interest, we anticipate that our New York auction rooms present the best venue for our sales in order to grow the market.”

The move of the sale follows a recent influx of Aboriginal art in New York, with Gagosian Gallery currently exhibiting “Desert Painters of Australia: Works from the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia and the Collection of Steve Martin and Anne Stringfield” on the Upper East Side, and MoMA PS1 showing works from the Karrabing Film Collective, who make work engaging indigenous life and the Belyuen culture from which they hail.

The sale will include works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye from the collection of Thomas Vroom, with other lots to be announced. As it stands, the highest auction price for a living Australian Aboriginal artist is £401,000, (about $507,000) paid for Michael Nelson Tjakamarra’s painting Five Stories (1984) at Sotheby’s in London in 2016.

In a recent Washington Post article about his interest in Aboriginal art, the comedian and noted art collector Steve Martin said, “I think if you stuck one up at Sotheby’s in the contemporary art sale, people would go, ‘Uh-huh, it makes total sense that it would be there.’”

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