Above: Former owner Tim Jennings with Earth’s Creation by Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Photo from his blog.
The acclaimed masterpiece by Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Earth’s Creation, recently sold at auction for $2m, twice the sum paid for it by its former owner, Tim Jennings of Mbantua Gallery in Todd Mall.
He’s disappointed however, as the sum is well below the two independent valuations he had before the auction – one for $4m and one for $3m.
“Of course, valuations are not guarantees, but Earth’s Creation had been exhibited in the Venice Art Biennale after those valuations had been made so I thought it reasonable that the painting had the potential of reaching $3 million, if not $4 million!” he writes in his blog.
This money would not simply have gone into his pocket. After paying off business debt, he says he intended to make sizeable donations to charities, including to his own Mbantua Foundation that is “designed to put together sustainable projects for destitute and under privileged Aboriginal people here in Central Australia.”
The final $2m price he says is not enough to allow this to go ahead.
The sale was to an American buyer, Tim Olsen. Mr Jennings says he was “personally very disappointed that it didn’t remain in Australia” although he had supported the dealer Adrian Newstead obtaining an export permit for the work.
He did that hoping that “it would increase bidding, which hopefully would then have enabled me to accomplish my [charitable] goals”.
He says Earth’s Creation “is a magnificent work in itself – and when the cultural background and life of Emily is factored in, it really should be sitting in the National Gallery of Australia or at the very least, a State Gallery”.
If he had known bidding would only reach $2m, he says he may not have put the work on the market, although the sale saves him from the continued burden of insuring the painting at $20,000 pa and will help ensure that Mbantua Gallery stays open and “continues to support, encourage and promote the art of the Utopia region”.
He also says Mbantua Gallery, having down-sized in recent years, no longer had room to display the work, which should be “available for public viewing”.