Title: “Taking Five Loaves and Two Fish”
Medium: Ochres on Bark
Image Size: 840mm x 330mm
Documentation: CoA (Certificate of Authenticity)
Catalogue No: KA 00391
AIAM Overall Ranking: 83
AIAM Market Ranking: 146 (2018)
Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction by Dr David MALANGI
Gurrmirringu’s Wife C. 1968
auction: Sotheby’s Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne lot: 67 date: 25/07/2005
Height 85 cm Natural earth pigments on carved wood $56,900
Gunmirringgu And His Wife C. 1961
auction: Sotheby’s Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney lot: 235 date: 29/07/2003
Height: 56 cm; 56 cm Natural earth pigments on carved wood $33,400
Gurrimirringu The Mighty Hunter
auction: Bonhams, Sydney lot: 12 date: 24/11/2013
108.5 x 52 cm Natural earth pigments of eucalyptus bark $10,980
Gunmirringu The Great Hunter 1985
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney lot: 264 date: 25/05/2004
86 x 63 cm Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark $9,000
Gunmirringgu Mortuary Rites
auction: Sotheby’s Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney lot: 79 date: 20/10/2008
114 x 81 cm Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark $8,400
Gunmirringu Story C. 1992
auction: Sotheby’s Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne lot: 175 date: 09/07/2001
183 x 118 cm Natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on canvas $8,400
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney lot: 169 date: 23/11/2004
121 x 173 cm Natural earth pigments on bark $8,400
auction: Joel Fine Art, Melbourne lot: 86 date: 05/06/2007
Length: 86 cm Natural earth pigments on hardwood boomerang $6,362
Sacred Dreaming Tree
auction: Christie’s , Melbourne lot: 174 date: 27/08/1997
85 x 53 cm Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark $5,750.00
Gurrumarringu (The Great Hunter)
auction: Sotheby’s Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney lot: 81 date: 15/08/2000
?? cm Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark $5,175
During his lifetime David Malangi was one of the best known and loved Aboriginal artists in Australia. He was more highly recognised, during the 1970s and 1980s than most of the desert painters whose reputations did not transcend his until the early 1990s. He was a prolific bark painter whose works were collected by major museums throughout Australia as well as France, Germany and the United States of America. The list of prestigious exhibitions that included his works, the awards that he was given, and the books in which his artworks featured is as impressive as any other single Aboriginal artist.
His works first appeared at auction in 1987 and since that time over 150 have been offered. However the fact that his works have been available since the earliest specialist auctions were held, as well as his prolific production has mitigated against his average prices despite the high regard in which he is held.
While he was principally known as a bark painter he occasionally created carvings and it was for two of these rare works, created during the 1960s, that his highest record prices have been recorded. The first Gurrmirringu’s Wife c.1968, stood 85 cm high and sold for $56,900 in Sotheby’s July 2005 auction (Lot 67). The other, a smaller double-sided piece measuring 56 x 56 cm of Gurrmirringu and His Wife c.1961 fetched $33,400 when sold in Sotheby’s July 2003 auction (Lot 235). These were astronomical prices justifying the high estimates Tim Klinginder of Sotheby’s placed on the works. In fact these excellent results indicate that rare sculptural pieces have been received with far more interest than even the very finest of Malangi’s more ubiquitous bark paintings. Admittedly, the two spectacular carvings were created in the 1960s, however another one half the size, that was made c.1980 had sold below the lower estimate for a mere $690 in Sotheby’s June 1997 sale (Lot 300). Nevertheless a hardwood boomerang featuring painted File Snakes sold for a very healthy $6,362 at Joel Fine At in June 2007 (Lot 86) against a presale estimate of $2,000-3,000 and a ceremonial paddle created in 1969 sold for $1,200 at Lawson~Menzies in May 2006 (Lot 248). While these were beautifully realised pieces of art, one can only assume that the premium paid for Malangi’s sculptural pieces was due to their rarity. Only eight have been offered since 1987 and six have sold.
This may also apply to the only work on canvas ever recorded as having been offered for sale. Gurrmirringu Story c.1992 measuring 183 x 188 cm was offered at Sotheby’s in July 2001 (Lot 175) and achieved $8,400, the artists third highest price for a painting and his fifth highest price overall. Sotheby’s indicated that this work, previously exhibited at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, was reputedly the artist’s first attempt to paint on canvas rather than bark and it was possibly the largest work he ever created. Malangi was obviously unimpressed with the medium as, having held several solo exhibitions for him in Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery during the late 1990s, I never saw any evidence of others. However he did engage in printmaking and while only one print has appeared to date at auction, three works on paper have been offered and all three have sold at an average price of $1,752, the best being Burala Cormorant and Waterlillies 1995, created in natural earth pigments and measuring 98 x 70 cm. This sold for $3,360 at Lawson~Menzies in November 2004 (Lot 340).
The highest price for a bark was the $9,000 paid for a 86 x 63 cm work titled Gunmirringu (sic) the Great Hunter 1985, which sold in Lawson~Menzies June 2004 auction (Lot 264). This image and that of the canvas work mentioned above, was very similar to the artwork reproduced on the one-dollar note for which David Malangi was famous.
Interestingly, it was for bark paintings that David Malangi was most famous, yet his barks have often languished when offered for sale. For an artist who painted for nearly 40 years it seems unusual that the year his works were painted appears to make little difference to the price, while the image seems to be the determining factor. For example, the average price for a work featuring ‘catfish’ in the title is only $1,500, while the average for a similar sized bark with Gurrmirringu is closer to $4,000.
By looking at the trend of his average prices over the years and ignoring 2001 when just one work sold (his second best result) it appears that, apart from a spike in 2004 when 11 works sold at an average of $3,737 and 2005 when seven sold for an average of $10,511, there has been very little change since 1994. Only 9 of his paintings have sold for more than $5,000; while 20 have sold for between $2,500 and $5,000; over 45 between $1,000 and $2,500; and 15 for less than $1,000. Granted these records have been achieved over two decades however, along with the prices paid for his sculptures, they provide ample evidence that for an artist of such importance, David Malangi’s paintings are very good buying indeed. However, between 2016 and 2017 only two bark paintings were offered and both passed in.
Since the secondary market for Aboriginal art gained pace in the early 1990s, collectors have been prepared to pay extremely high prices for even the most ordinary 1971-1974 desert paintings. And when compared to the prices currently being paid for the vast majority of contemporary desert and Kimberley works, not to mention a host of bark painters that were taught by Malangi and his contemporaries (such as John Mawurndjurl and Ivan Namariki) in the primary market, paintings by Malangi and a number of his contemporaries are vastly undervalued. Bark painters like Malangi produced works that, in the opinion of those that have real historical and cultural knowledge and insight, are the epitome of Aboriginal fine art. That being the case, now is most definitely the time to acquire one for any respectable collection.