Sunday 16 August 2015

London Calling | Aboriginal art under the hammer

Sunday, August 16, 2015 - Bonhams is delighted to announce the forthcoming auction Aboriginal Art: The Thomas Vroom Collection, a single owner sale showcasing works which span more than 100 years of continuous Aboriginal art. Recently repatriated, the works are drawn from the Thomas Vroom Collection which is one of Europe’s largest, most valuable and significant collections of Aboriginal art. For over a decade The Thomas Vroom Collection has formed the cornerstone of the Aboriginal Art Museum in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and many works in the auction have extensive exhibition histories. First encountering Australian Indigenous art in New York in the late 1980s, Thomas Vroom became passionately engaged in collecting Aboriginal art globally. Over the next two decades Vroom acquired important historical works from groundbreaking auctions, whilst also tracking down and directly acquiring old collections. Fascinated by the entire spectrum of Aboriginal art, he also acquired contemporary works on numerous trips to remote regions and from galleries in the capital cities throughout Australia. Vroom’s interest in the field was broad from the outset, and the collection includes early artefacts, bark paintings, ceremonial sculptures, as well as works from the genesis of the Western Desert and Kimberley painting movements. Vroom’s passion lead him to established the Songlines Galleries in San Francisco with David Betz, and in Amsterdam with Maggie de Moor, he staged exhibitions of contemporary art from communities.

The auction draws works from many important early collections of Aboriginal art including The Lance Bennett Collection of Western Arnhem Land and the Tiwi islands. The Lance Bennett Collection was formed in the 1960s and includes rare paintings on bark depicting the sexual exploits of spirit figures. Similar to paintings found in the rock art of the region, the production of these paintings was discouraged and suppressed by the missionaries who were the only outlet for artist’s production in the 1960s. Of particular note are the bark paintings by Nadjombolmi, who is acknowledged as the greatest painter of rock art in the Kakadu region. A highlight of the auction is a group of works by Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous artist, Emily Kgwarreye. Upon discovering her work in the early 1990s, Vroom famously drove 250km from Alice Springs to the artist’s community of Utopia, and Delmore Downs station, arriving unannounced, in order to meet the artist. On offer are 30 paintings by Emily Kngwarreye dating from her earlier periods to large scale later works. All offered for the first time at auction, highlights include a rare roundel Anooralya Yam (est: AU$10,000 – 15,000). A major supporter of women’s desert paintings, Thomas Vroom collected artists such as the late Dorothy Napangati Robinson (two of whose works in this auction were included in the artist’s retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and are illustrated in the accompanying catalogue), Kathleen Petyarre, Eubena Nampitjin, Queen Mackenzie, and Ngoia Pollard. This exciting auction has been consigned to Bonhams by Tim Klingender Fine Art, advisers to The Thomas Vroom Collection.

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