Thursday March 15th 2018



Justin watching Warlimpirrnga paint a large-scale work, Alice Springs NT, January 2018

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
is the eldest amongst a small group of nine Aboriginal Pintupi people who walked out of their traditional nomadic existence (and 40,000 years of uninterrupted cultural tradition) into the newly established community of Kiwirrkura in 1984. These nine, were hailed in the media as the ‘lost tribe’ and had never encountered white people at close proximity before and are documented as the last known group of Australian Aboriginal people to have left their traditional ways.
Until 2014, Warlimpirrnga was considered as just one of a group of good painters from the western desert. What was to follow significantly changed the dynamics in the market for his works, a shift that has occurred largely unnoticed by Australian collectors and it has opened a new door for a select group of other painters to follow.

In early 2014 a significant U.S. collector of Aboriginal art named Denis Scholl presented a major touring museum show of male Aboriginal artists (’No Boundaries’), with Warlimpirrnga as a headline act.

Off the back of this exposure, a contemporary gallery named Salon94 in New York made the decision to formally represent his works. They first took large scale paintings to Art Basel in Miami in December 2014, sold out all of his work.

A solo show followed at Salon94’s flagship gallery in New York in 2015 with significantly higher prices between USD$20,000 (for small 100x100cm works) through to USD$80,000 (for the largest 180x240cm) each. It again sold-out, but more importantly drove media exposure via articles in the New York Times & Wall Street Journal.

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjari, Marawa (2018), Acrylic on belgian linen, 152 x 122cm

The attention surrounding Warlimpirrnga and his minimalist contemporary aesthetic grew. By the end of 2016 Warlimpirrnga’s auction record was smashed, a large work measuring 183x244cm achieved a result of GBP167,000 (AUD$294,000) at Sotheby’s in London. Following on, 2017 saw his works exhibited at the most prestigious art fairs in the world – Art Basel and Art Basel Miami, The Armoury New York, TEFAF in The Netherlands with multiple large format paintings in his classic Tingari style selling for US$90,000 each. To highlight the significance Warlimpirrnga and his sister Yukultji (another artist set to follow the same trajectory) were the only 2 Australian artists to be consistently presented at this premium level of the international market.
Further cementing his place as the most notable of all living Aboriginal artists, thus far in 2018 three of his works were presented last week by Sotheby’s at their dedicated Aboriginal Art sale in their Bond Street auction rooms in London. All 3 achieved results in or above their presale estimates. The largest of which sold for GBP93,750 or AUD $166,000.

The reality around this particular artist is in line with what we at Piermarq have predicted for 5 years. Internationally at the top tier of the market, the interest for Australian art exists almost exclusively for the best in Aboriginal art. Now that one of our living painters has established representation and seen consistent success at auction, it paves a new path for a very select number of exceptional proponents of this minimalist desert style overseas; in the immediate – Yukultji Napangati and Yalti Napangati – both Warlimpirrnga’s relatives.

To paint a realistic picture of what the market has provided for savvy early collectors of Warlimpirrnga’s work, in 2014 we sold an excellent example of into a local collection for $35,000. It is the same scale as two of those paintings that have sold in the last two Sotheby’s sales at $294,000 and $166,000 respectively. Granted, both of these recent results are for works that have garnered exceptional provenance internationally through exhibition history, but it confirms that our client’s work is now conservatively valued at $130,000, representing a 39% compound growth rate annualised.

Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri Auction Results from Sotheby’s London

Lot 53

153 x 183cm
estimates GBP 30,000-50,000
approx. AUD $53,000-88,000
SOLD GBP55,000 / AUD $97,500

Lot 54
91 x 46cm
estimates GBP 3,000-5,000
approx. AUD $5,300-8,800
SOLD GBP8,125 / AUD $14,500

Lot 55
183 x 244cm
estimates GBP 80,000-120,000
approx. AUD $140,000-210,000
SOLD GBP93,750 / AUD $166,000

Full auction results available at Sothebys:

Would you like to view works by Warlimpirrnga Tijapaltjarri? Feel free to contact us on (02) 9660 7799 or [email protected]

Piermarq Art
Piermarq Director's Justin & Rob with artist Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri in Alice Springs NT, January 2018
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