When a painting titled Five Stories by Papunya artist, Michael Nelson Jagamarra came up for auction recently at Sotheby’s in London, it was surprising to see it given pre-sale estimates of £150,000-200,000.
A quick glance through Jagamara’s AASD entry will show that the highest price previously achieved for his work on the secondary market was AU$17,080 – which was for a painting sold at Mossgreen in 2012 and the next two highest results were way back in 2004.
In the end the Sotheby’s estimates actually looked somewhat conservative and many in the industry were scratching their heads when the painting was eventually knocked down for over double its high estimate to achieve £401,000 IBP (AU$687,875) - an auction record for any living Australian Indigenous artist.
How did this astronomical result come about? What drove the buyers to bid so feverishly for the painting at auction?