An Aboriginal painting just set a new Australian record for a female artist

Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Earth Creation. Source: Cooee Art Gallery

A work the late Aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye has set a new record for a work by an Australian female painter.

Earth’s Creation 1, a large work from the Utopia artist, painted in 1994, sold for nearly double the price paid for it 10 years ago. When it sold for $1.056 million in 2007, it was the first Aboriginal artwork to break the million-dollar mark at auction.

Sydney gallery owner Tim Olsen paid $2.1 million (inc. 5% buyer’s premium) at auction in Sydney last night for an anonymous client, comparing the work to the late paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Lloyd Rees and Claude Monet.

The work has been described as Kngwarreye’s “Water Lillies” — a reference to Monet’s prolific final studies of the changing seasons towards the end of his life, a theme also in the Utopia’s artist’s monumental work.

Olsen said his anonymous client was unsure about where to hang the work, adding that it has the potential to be loaned to a public institution. Earth Creation was shown at the 2015 Venice Biennale and toured the world, including Japan.

“This is her Last Supper,” Olsen said

“It’s a painting from the soul with a total ethereal quality.”

Kngwarreye painted the 6.32 metre by 2.75 metre acrylic on canvas on four panels in her 80s, just two years before her death.

It’s the second-highest price for an Aboriginal work, behind the $2.4 million paid a decade ago for Warlugulong by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri.

The record for Australia’s most expensive artwork is Sidney Nolan’s 1946 Ned Kelly work “First-Class Marksman”, which sold in 2010 for $5.4 million.

The Kngwarreye was due to go up for auction on Tuesday night in a collaboration between the Indigenous specialists Cooee Art Gallery and Tim Goodman’s online auction house Fine Art Bourse (FAB), but the online sale was postponed after a surge in traffic, believed to be a cyberattack, causing the website’s servers to slow and look like it had crashed. By 6pm, the site had more than 60,000 cached requests.

FAB subsequently said they believed it was a deliberate and paid attack, and that its database may also have been hacked.

Tim Goodman told Business Insider the cyber-security company investigating what happened should finalise its report today.

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