Emily Kame Kngwarreye, 'Untitled (Alalgura/Alhalkere), 1989. Painting from Utopia, Central Desert (N.T.). Acrylic on canvas. 150 x 120 cm. Ahead of the Academy’s ‘Australia’ exhibition this autumn, which will be the first survey of Australian art in over half a century in the UK, there is a chance this weekend to view in London highlights from the most significant private collection of the country’s modern and contemporary indigenous and non-indigenous art. Over 250 pieces from the collection of Colin and Elizabeth Laverty, representing over a tenth of the works they have amassed over four decades, are being auctioned at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art on 24 March 2013, and until Tuesday a strong selection of the sale items are on view at Bonhams in Bond Street.
Naturally there are many points of crossover between the artists the Laverty’s have collected and those that will be on view at the Academy from September. This includes Emily Kame Kngwarreye, one of the country’s most celebrated twentieth-century painters, who is represented in London by the matrix-like late work Untitled (Alagura/Alhalkere) (1989) (estimate £130,000–200,000), with five of her fantastic pieces in total featured in the sale.
Rosalie Gascoigne, 'Flora Galop', 1976. assemblage of found wodden cabinet complete with door, inner wood frame, shards of china and hand coloured engraving, glued and screwed. 43 x 36 x 10cm (16 15/16 x 14 3/16 x 3 15/16in). AU$25,000-35,000. The auction in Sydney also includes works by Rover Thomas, a similarly successful Australian painter of Aboriginal descent, and Rosalie Gascoigne, whose produced sculptures and assemblages from readymade, rough-and-ready materials. Although works by big-name modern artists such as Sidney Nolan RA, Margaret Preston and Arthur Boyd are absent, the display in London gives a lovely taster of what to expect at the RA, and – so rarely is Australian art shown in the UK – it is likely to yield discoveries for anyone who can spare the time to visit.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine