These are the top 10 artists that I, personally, see as having great potential and affording collectors the opportunity for growth:
1. Emily Kngwarreye
Emily has continually struck a chord with the market in Australia. Her work has been a driving force all the way through and you can still pick up an Emily for a reasonable price at exhibition or auction. Serious collectors now look to works by Emily with the view of significant opportunity.
2. Daniel Walbidi
This is a bit a big call as Daniel is relatively new on the scene, but he produces limited works and there’s great demand in his market. I really see Daniel’s work commanding a presence on the international stage moving forward. There is such great potential in his work, he has a purely individual style and technique that I think will have reach beyond Australian shores. He’s very well represented and managed and is an exceptional Australian artist with unlimited potential.
3. Paddy Bedford
This is an artist whose work has really held up very strongly, even in the downturn in the market. Of all the Australian Indigenous artists, he’s the only one with a complete catalogue raisonné. During tough times, collectors relied on this and it sets a foundation for the artist and his works. International scope with Paddy is going to be potentially very strong as a contemporary artist, taken out of the context of Indigenous and/or non-Indigenous art. International reach and demand is going to be the key driving force for any collectable Australian Indigenous artist.
4. Gordon Bennett
I am stepping outside the box here. I’ve been a strong advocate for contemporary urban indigenous artists in Australia. The key strength is an incredibly strong narrative – there’s a real story to be told and the leading artists tell that in a very vocal way. Gordon Bennett is one of the most collectable of this group and there still remains real potential here – I don’t think the horse has bolted with this artist even though we’ve seen some records for his work at recent auctions.
An early Balgo artist with only a very small body of work that the market relies on. Wimmitji is an artist who I don’t think ever produced a bad picture. There have been solid levels of support for his work in the past couple of years at auction, but I believe the work is still not appreciated enough in the marketplace at present. Having said that the last three major Wimmitji’s that I have sold at auction have all sold for in excess of $40,000, so the prices are there but I see there is still scope for potential growth in the future.
6. John Mawurndjul
The first bark artist on my list! And it won’t come as any surprise – he could have been even further up my list quite easily. I am a huge fan of bark paintings, they’re such a natural, organic medium and so purely identifiable as being Australian. Mawurndjul is my pick of artists in this medium, there have been some major paintings that have shown up at auction recently that have achieved in excess of $100,000 and I see even more potential in the future. Mawurndjul is highly regarded and represented in international institutions as well.
7. Rover Thomas
Some may argue that Rover Thomas should be number 1, because he has been the driving force in the Australian Indigenous in the secondary market since the beginning. The reason I have him at number 7 is because I think prices for his works remain suppressed (so there’s great potential in the medium term future) but there has been some negative press which lingers and will take some time to clear. Ultimately a great Rover is a great thing, but there really hasn’t been a significant Rover show up at auction for quite some time.
8. Lin Onus
One of Australia’s greatest artists. In saying this, there are arguments that the horse has already bolted with this artist’s prices at auction - the prices that have been achieved on the secondary market today compared with three to five years ago show there has been incredible growth. I’m comfortable with this growth; the works are certainly worth what they are achieving today. How much growth is left in the market is arguable, I think in the longer term we’re not anywhere near what Lin Onus’ works can achieve.
9. Kitty Kantilla
Kitty is one of my all-time favourites. With most female artists there is a real sensitivity in their work and Kitty is certainly one of those. I fell in love with Kitty’s work at her retrospective at the NGV and I haven’t looked back. The market is now starting to respond to her work achieving strong and overdue support on the secondary market.
10. 1971-72 Papunya boards
This might be against the rules but I’m going to put this entire category of the ‘founding masters’ in at number 10. We’re seeing incredible support in the marketplace for the early boards – and quite rightly so. There has always been strong demand internationally, but with deterring restrictions associated with export, this market has been stymied for the past decade. Recently we’ve seen the secondary market for boards showing incredible strength and I think this trend will continue. I sold the two early boards at my June exhibition – both were snapped up immediately – and I think we’ll continue to see strong growth in the future. Of all the works I’ve just discussed in terms of investment, this category is arguably the surest thing due to two main driving factors – rarity and significance. The majority of major collectors have all focussed in this area, and so I believe we will see this segment potentially being one of the key driving forces in the market over the next few years.
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