The 97 lot sale kicks off with a brilliant five-panel work by Jan Billycan, Kirriwirri, 2006-2007 (Lot 1 ). These multi-panel suites are quite rare for the artist but two excellent examples spring to mind; a related 8-panelled work, All That Jila 2006 sits in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia and a 6-panel work retains the auction record for the artist after it sold from the Laverty Collection at Bonhams in 2013 for $80,000 hammer ($97,600 IBP). Kirriwirri seems comfortably estimated at $15,000-20,000.
A stunning work by young superstar, Daniel Walbidi, follows fittingly at lot 2 with All the Jila 2007. It was painted following Walbidi’s first experience flying over his ancestral country around Winpa and Kirriwirri in the Great Sandy Desert. Struck by the colour and reflective quality of the quartz deposits and waterholes when viewed from the sky, the style and colours that emerged following this trip has become the hallmark of the artist’s work. All the Jila is estimated at $18,000-25,000 and will be one to watch.
The biggest ticket item in the sale is Rover Thomas, Ruby Plains Massacre 1, 1985 (Lot 10 ), bought by Luczo at the Aboriginal & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby’s in 2007. This painting was originally commissioned by Mary Macha in 1985 and was also part of the Holmes à Court’s Collection for many years. It is one of the first of a series Thomas painted on the subject in the 80s which relates to the killing of Aborigines in the Kimberley in late 19th and early 20th century. Largely unrecorded in white history, the stories of the massacres of local Indigenous people by white cattle station owners, often in reprisal for taking livestock to eat, survive through an oral history.
What makes his Ruby Plains depictions particularly unique is the inclusion of a skull inside a hollow tree trunk, while the majority of Thomas’ works are devoid of figurative imagery. Ruby Plains Massacre 1 is expecting $300,000-400,000.
The Luczo Collection has a strong focus on carving from the 1950s and 60s, with examples of Tiwi sculpture from Bathurst and Melville Islands as well as from Central Arnhem Land.
The Docker River Figure (Lot 60 ) is a standout example, collected in 1968 by a surveyor working in the Docker River region, southwest of Alice Springs, and valued at $20,000-30,000. The small figure of a man wearing an elongated ceremonial headdress is richly decorated in vibrant bands of acrylic paint and in remarkably good condition.
Highlighting the Tiwi section is a piece by one of the most famous carvers from the 1950s, Enraeld Djulabinyana Munkara (Lot 16 ). Crudely carved but beautifully decorated, this double sided female figure most likely represents Bima, a major protagonist in the Pukumani story, which tells of the falling from grace of the Tiwi people and is estimated at $20,000-30,000.
Among the early Papunya boards is Kaapa Mbitjana Tjampitjinpa’s Budgerigar Dreaming (Version 6), 1972 (Lot 29 ), estimated at $150,000-200,000. Regarded by Geoffrey Bardon as the artist’s masterpiece, this large board has been on long-term loan to the Art Gallery of South Australia and was also part of the ground breaking 2011 exhibition Tjukurrtjanu: Origins of Western Desert Art at the National Gallery of Victoria and later at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. With this pedigree, the majestic board would suit the walls of any serious Indigenous art collector.
Those who missed out on Warlimpirringa Tjapaltjarri’s Untitled which sold at Sotheby’s in London last month for £167,000 IBP will be thrilled to find the smaller Marawala, 2005 on offer at lot 38. Though not nearly as monumental, this work is a similar period and palette and a comparative steal at $4,000-6,000.
Naata Nungurrayi’s The Soakage Water Site of Unkunya, West of the Pollack Hills in Western Australia, 2005 (Lot 52 ) achieved the equal highest price at auction for the artist when Luczo bought it at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $216,000 IBP. Considering this last sale, its current estimate of $80,000-120,000 seems particularly attractive for one of the artist’s larger works.
Aboriginal Art from the Luczo Family Collection is expecting to make between $1,600,000-2,200,000 and will be auctioned by Deutscher and Hackett in Melbourne on 19 October at 7pm.