Award Winners: Patrick Tjungurrayi - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

The profile appeared in the "Award Winners" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2009"

This June the inaugural Western Australian Indigenous Art Awards were launched by the Premier of Western Australia at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The new awards are an initiative of the former state Labor government, established as a national art award to celebrate the contribution that Indigenous artists from across the country have made to Australian art and culture.

To be presented annually, the awards look set to become a highlight of the Indigenous arts calendar nationally. In addition to the awards, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists were invited to showcase their art in the inaugural awards exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in November last year.

The award of $50,000 – judged by, among others, pre-eminent expert on Indigenous art Djon Mundine – is now Australia’s richest Indigenous art award. This year’s winner was Patrick Tjungurrayi for a traditionally rendered, large-scale triptych of canvases of a scrub fire in his Gibson Desert homeland, described by Mundine as having “a particularly strong presence”. “These are powerful, masterful, monumental works,” he claimed.

But Mundine, in typical fashion, also summed up the work in more straightforward terms: “They were the best, the best-looking.”

Tjungurryi is a member of the Papunya Tula art collective and as a painter is considered stylistically influential in his region. According to Papunya Tula’s website: “Patrick is a senior member of the Kiwirrkura community in Western Australia. This award is testament to Patrick’s ongoing commitment both as a leader and visual innovator, whose style continues to inspire a legion of exciting male painters in Kiwirrkura and beyond.” With his paintings priced in the region of $40,000, Tjungurrayi is regarded as one of the most collectable Australian artists of the past five years.

Carrie Miller

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