Water Dreaming at KalipinyaPosted: November 2, 2017
Says the 2001 NYTimes obituary of painter Johnny Warangkua Tjupurrula:
He died a penniless alcoholic. In 1997 one of his paintings, ”Water Dreaming at Kalipinya,” which he had sold in 1972 for $75, changed hands at a Sotheby’s auction in Melbourne for $263,145, setting a record for any Aboriginal work of art. Mr. Tjupurrula’s request for 4 percent of the sale price was refused by both seller and buyer.
Not cool! From a 2010 Smithsonian article by Arthur Lubow:
The Wilkersons’ costliest board was the 1972 painting Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa, a dazzling patchwork of stippled, dotted and crosshatched shapes, bought in 2000 for some $220,000—more than twice the price it had been auctioned for only three years earlier. The painting was done by Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, an original member of the Papunya cooperative and one of its most celebrated. Sadly, the artist himself had long been overlooked; in 1997, an Australian journalist found Warangkula, by then old and homeless, sleeping along with other Aboriginal people in a dry riverbed near Alice Springs. Though he reportedly received less than $150 for his best-known painting, the publicity surrounding the 1997 sale revived his career somewhat and he soon resumed painting. Warangkula died in a nursing home in 2001.
Here’s his 1972 painting Potato Dreaming: