Supplied, 9 June 2023

Cooee Art, Australia's oldest exhibiting Indigenous gallery and specialised Indigenous-focused auction house, is holding its bi-annual Fine Art Auction in Sydney, on the June 20th,  2023. The auction features 106 lots, showcasing the diversity and richness of Indigenous art from across the country, with the sale estimated at $1.58 to $2.1 million.

The highlight of the bi-annual Cooee Art Indigenous Fine Art Auction in Sydney, on the 20th of June 2023 is the small and extremely rare painting from Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s famed Final Series, Final Series, 1996, (Lot 36) which carries an estimate of $250,000 - $350,000. Read the back story here.

The highlight of the sale is the small and extremely rare painting from Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s famed Final Series (Lot 36) Final Series, 1996, which carries an estimate of $250,000 - $350,000. In August 1996 she was 87 years of age and clearly in poor health. Realising the end was imminent, she wanted to paint one last time and asked her nephew Fred Torres to bring paint and canvas. He flew from Adelaide and rushed to her side. With no other materials at hand, he gave her a one-inch gesso brush normally used to prime the canvas in its first black ground. In no time at all, she dipped the brush into a pot of paint and filled a section of the small canvass he’d placed before her. Over the next few days she completed twenty-three more extraordinary canvases in this style. The paintings were like nothing she had ever painted before. Kngwarreye passed away 2 weeks after these works were created and the 24 works become known the Final Series. They mark a most extraordinary end to a remarkable career and parallel the last works of Henrie Matisse, yet another artist with whom she was compared but about whom she knew nothing. During the year following her death Emily Kngwarreye was one of Australia’s three representatives at the Venice Biennale, and the subject of a touring retrospective exhibition mounted by Margo Neale for the Queensland Art Gallery. Outstanding in a show packed with memorable images was a selection of works from her final series. With broadly brushed areas of luminous, almost fluorescent colours, these paintings looked like nothing ever painted previously by an Aboriginal painter. They were, in the words of her biographer Dr. Victoria King, 'a final expression of Alhalkere, her remarkable spirit and a draining away, a kenosis. In this last series Emily merged self and country into a dissolution of form. 

Amongst the other lots on offer is a masterpiece by NATSIA Award winner Ngioa Pollard, who was not a prolific painter of large-scale paintings. The superb example in this sale, Swamps around Nyrripi, 2010 (Lot 43) is one of her very finest and on a par with her monumental work held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Contemporary Aboriginal artists feature strongly in this offering include works by Richard Bell, Reko Rennie, Tony Albert, and Christian Thompson, along with earlier works by two stalwarts of the modern Aboriginal art scene in Trevor Nickolls and Lin Onus.

From traditional bark paintings and sculptures to contemporary art and photography, the collection represents the very best of Indigenous art and offers collectors and enthusiasts the chance to view a highly diverse offering.