Significant Indigenous artworks to be auctioned off in Melbourne

From Australia, to Silicon Valley and back again, a collection of significant Indigenous artworks are set to go under the hammer in Melbourne.

Rover Thomas 1985 painting titled 'Ruby Plains Massacre 1'

Rover Thomas 1985 painting titled 'Ruby Plains Massacre 1' Source: Deutscher and Hackett

A comprehensive international collection of Indigenous Australian artworks has come home.

Owned by US tech magnate, Stephen Luczo, and his wife Agatha, the 97 pieces are being auctioned off by Melbourne’s Deutscher and Hackett.

Head of Indigenous Art at Deutscher and Hackett, Crispin Gutteridge, said the works were part of a larger Luczo family collection.

“This is not the entire collection; this is approximately half of the works they hold, they’re going to hold on to a core group of works” he told SBS.

“And as well as selling these works, they’re gifting to a number of institutions in the United States.”

Mr Luczo is the chairman of major disc drive producer, Seagate Technologies.

He and his wife purchased their first Indigenous painting in 2007, and have been collecting works ever since.

The family’s curator, Blair Hartzell, told SBS the owners were attracted to the energy of the desert paintings.

“On that quite visceral level they were drawn to the works and then also, learning more and more about how there's so much story-telling, and song, and ceremony, and this connection to the earth, was very important to them,” Hartzell said.

Most of the pieces have rotated through Seagate Technologies or toured galleries in the US, so this is a rare opportunity to view the artworks on home soil.

Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri's 1976 piece called Woman's Dreaming
Tommy Lowry Tjapaltjarri's 1976 piece called Woman's Dreaming Source: Deutscher and Hackett

“They've been embracing contemporary paintings, so they're works by living artists, in the main, there are a couple of early paintings acquired to anchor the collection,” Mr Gutteridge said.

One of the most valuable pieces in the collection is a 1985 painting by Rover Thomas, titled 'Ruby Plains Massacre 1'.
It depicted the killings of Aboriginal people in the east Kimberley region, from the late 19th century.

The piece sold for $360,000 in 2007, and was expected to fetch a similar sum this time around.

It has a 'sister' work, called 'Cyclone Tracey', which is currently on display at the National Gallery of Australia.

Kaapa Tjampitjinpa's 'Budgerigar Dreaming' is another significant piece.

The auction house estimated that the entire collection was worth between $1.6 and $2.2 million dollars, and there's already been interest.

Art collector Carol Andrew has her eye on one or two pieces.

“You just start with something smaller and then progress upwards and now it’s a passion for us,” she said.

“It takes a special painting to be the one you want to take home.”

Others, like Florence Hydon, are happy to just admire the works.

“There was something about it that was unusual, the fact that it was an American collection and it’s probably never been seen in Australia in public, and who knows where it’ll go when it’s sold.”

The works will be auctioned on October 19.

3 min read
Published 18 October 2016 at 6:22pm
By Sarah Abo