How much is Aboriginal art worth?

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Mearto Specialist:

David U.

Dr. David U. brings over a decade of experience with a distinguished specialization in Asian and African art history. With a background in art consultancy and art management in various international galleries, he is currently lecturing for a luxury house in addition to his work for Mearto. He has curated numerous exhibitions and produced symposia and publications throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. His extensive professional network, as well as his expertise, enhances his appraisals in the categories of: Asian art and antiques, African, Pre-Colombian and Aboriginal art, swords and antique firearms.

What is the history of Australian and Aboriginal art?

As with much of the "new" world, Australia has a complicated history. The country’s culture was shaped for many thousands of years by indigenous people, then dramatically altered by Western colonialism. Europeans first set foot on Australian soil in 1606, during the Age of Discovery. The first colony was established in present-day Sydney a century later. Westerners brought diseases that decimated the local population and there were a number of bloody conflicts between the colonists and the aboriginal (native) people. Aborigines struggled for equal rights throughout the 20th century and it would be naive to think that such deep-seated differences have been fully resolved today.

However, from this complex past, two separate but often intertwined veins of art emerged. From ancient artifacts to contemporary paintings, works from this area of the world are generally classified together as Australian and Aboriginal Art. As part of the larger category of "Oceanic art," artwork that comes from Australia, be it of aboriginal or Western Australian origin, can be quite valuable. Works by Australian and aboriginal artists have consistently fetched six-figure hammer prices in recent years. The current record is held by Sidney Nolan, whose painting "First Class Marksman" sold for $4.1 million in 2010.

Additionally, a 2017 sale demonstrated a growing international appetite for Australian Aboriginal art when a piece by the late Emily Kngwarreye, titled "Earth's Creation 1," sold for $2.1 million. This same painting sold for just over $1 million a decade before in 2007.

Even if you’ve had your Australian or aboriginal art appraised in the past, most experts recommend a new appraisal every five years to account for shifts in the market. Our experts in Australian and Aboriginal art track the latest trends and use auction house results to accurately assess the value of your items.

What are the different styles of Australian and Aboriginal art?

There is evidence of art in Australia dating back at least 30,000 years.

These artifacts may be referred to as Aboriginal or indigenous art but should not be confused with works by contemporary Aboriginal or indigenous artists.

The first works of Australian art from artists of European heritage depicted the local flora and fauna. Landscape paintings were popular during the colonial era, as well as the subsequent gold rush and expansion of European settlers throughout the country. Some notable artists during this period were John Glover, Conrad Martens, Louis Bouvelot, and H.J. Johnstone.

The indigenous or Aboriginal people were painting on rocks, carving rock and wood, and utilizing other creative techniques long before the first European sailed to Australia. In the late 19th century, the distinctly Australian version of Impressionism came from the Heidelberg School. Artists of this movement embraced the plein air technique of their contemporaries in France and favored subjects that espoused the values of manual labor through romantic depictions of rural life. Members of the Heidelberg School included Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, and Charles Conder.

Australia also made significant contributions to modern art through the Antipodeans and the Hermannsburg School, as well as high modernism and postmodern art. In 1972, an artist’s cooperative called Papunya Tula formed and popularized the Western Desert Art Movement, also called Aboriginal "dot painting." It has been credited with bringing Australian Aboriginal art to international attention and has inspired many other contemporary Aboriginal artists.

Is Australian and Aboriginal art in high demand?

Auction prices have demonstrated a growing market for Australian and Aboriginal art. According to, Total sales at Australian fine art auctions in 2017 were $141 million, representing a 33% increase in sales volume over 2016. Projections for the future are favorable. Our experts in Australian and Aboriginal art can assess the current fair market value of your item, and we can provide you with real-time advice and assistance selling your Australian and Aboriginal art.

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