TOMMY LOWRY TJAPALTJARRI Two Men Dreaming at Kuluntjarranya 1984
synthetic polymer paint on linen, 121.5 x 183 cm

As the art market begins to mature into 2023, now is the time to reflect and look back through important market events, evaluate each segment, and develop a clear plan for the near to medium-term future. While focusing on the longer-term strategy, together, we can provide stability and sustainability for this incredible marketplace.

This industry is now at an inflection point – having been held back far too long under wraps by the self-interested ‘old guard’. And what we are presently seeing is a changing of that guard (with a little bit of public retaliation), whilst first-hand witnessing the crucial next stage of growth – off the back of those timely changes.

In light of this continued growing confidence and changing landscape, we at D’Lan Contemporary have decided to make some strategic and dramatic moves leading into the new year – broadening our base and further reaching emerging and established markets by maintaining an international presence.

So make sure to read until the end to see what we are doing in 2023, and let’s take a look at what occurred in 2022 – a most eventful year-to-date:


The most significant outcome for our industry in the past decade is the re-emergence of Sotheby’s annual ‘Aboriginal Art’ sales in New York. This sale has undoubtedly proved to be a huge confidence driver in this market. And with the announcement of their forthcoming sale in 2023 – it will continue to be.

And when the results came in May 2022, it revealed an overall sale total of AUD $6,395,893. The second highest price for arguably the pinnacle work by Emily Kame Kngwarreye was also achieved – AUD $1,154,045 including buyers’ premium.

No arguments.

This tremendous outcome for the artist combined with our exhibitions in association with Gagosian, further exposure at Tate Modern, and the important announcement of the retrospection exhibition to be held at the National Gallery of Australia in late 2023 (along with a yet-to-be-announced significant NGA acquisition) – international interest in artworks by Emily Kame Kngwarreye in particular, and Australian First Nations’ Art more broadly – continues to grow strongly.

Without sounding like a broken record, why haven’t Australian auction houses followed suit and seized on that momentum?

To try and understand the logic, let’s examine four outcomes of works by Emily Kame Kngwarreye sold by the four different local auction houses within the last six months:

·      Untitled – Wild Yams 1996 – SOLD FOR AUD $368,182 against pre-sale estimates of $60,000-80,000 by Smith and Singer

·      Spirited Desert 1991 – SOLD FOR AUD $92,250 against pre-sale estimates of $30,000-50,000 by Bonhams Australia

·      Desert Wilderness II 1996 – SOLD FOR AUD $103,091 against pre-sale estimates of $50,000-70,000 by Menzies

·      Untitled – Alalgura / Emu Country 1989 – SOLD FOR AUD $343,636 against pre-sale estimates of $150,000-200,000 by D+H

Alhalkere – Old Man Emu with Babies 1989
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
152 x 122

SOLD by Sotheby’s, New York 

Am I missing something here, or are these guys’ heads in the sand?

When further examining past auction records – Sotheby’s was placing auction estimates of $100,000-150,000 for an average-sized 5’x4’ work by Emily back in 1999. And by 2002, more bullish forecasts of $150,000-200,000 were already being placed on works and being successfully achieved here in Australia — we are now in 2023!

So why do Australian auction houses continue to defy the evident market movement and stay dormant with their estimations?

If anything, this only highlights the huge opportunity we have locally for someone at auction to step up (a new specialist, perhaps?). And it only amplifies the opportunity for further future growth.

In stark contrast, upon looking deeper into Deutscher and Hackett’s results at auction last week, an exemplary example of Paddy Bedford’s work appeared in their mixed vendor sale. Combined with a solid pre-sale estimate of $140,000-180,000 (which aligned with what was present retail for the artist), low and behold – a new auction record and set market benchmark – AUD $319,091 Inc BP.

Got to love that!

Let’s hope local auction specialists start to ‘defy the industry hierarchy’ and challenge themselves inwardly with their pre-sale estimations. Because much like the result mentioned above for Emily overseas at Sotheby’s, and the most recent result for Paddy Bedford at auction here, we love to see new benchmarks being set. It not only keeps the market engaged, it is just one way that our culture can show true respect and appreciation for theirs…

ROVER THOMAS, Bungullgi 1989
natural earth pigments on canvas, 90 x 180.5 cm

Continuing with our realigned market philosophy – through inclusion in our ‘two-way-street’ model of giving back to community through the market initiative NEIVA – The National Endowment for Indigenous Visual Arts — we are seeing incredible and sustained growth.

2022 has been a record year for sales of approximately AUD $12mil at D’Lan Contemporary. Significant 2022 achieved over $4mil in sales, The Estate of Paddy Bedford achieved over $3.5mil in collective sales, and both John Marwurndjul and Reverence achieved approximately $1.2mil each.

And continuing with our important investment into market education, we also exhibited at Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, which was a thrilling and highly engaging event for all involved.

But the highest growth area in our company is ‘off-market’ private sales. Something I remain focussed on moving into the new year. So if you have particular interests – make sure to reach out.

And believe it or not, 2023 is looking brighter still!

Collaborative exhibitions with William Mora, Annandale, Frank Maresca and Philip Bacon Galleries, along with major international brands such as Gagosian, have created a broader awareness and appreciation, which has, directly and indirectly, contributed to this tremendous success.

And we are incredibly thankful for those ongoing collaborations and friendships.

Back in 2021, as we began to program the new space in Melbourne’s CBD, we saw exceptional results and sell-out exhibitions for artists and their estates. But the true triumph was more recently in the collaborative effort with Warlayirti Artists on behalf of the Estate of Eubena Nampitjin. And although it was not the highest gross sale achieved, it was undoubtedly one of the most rewarding.

Again, thanks to all that were involved in that collaborative effort. And we hope that becomes an ongoing trend between the secondary market and First Nations-owned community art centres moving forward. We would love to have you more involved!

Moving into 2023, it is no great secret that this has encouraged us to selectively begin working with the Primary Market. Working collaboratively internationally with respected galleries such as Short St and Daniel Walbidi, along with other like-minded gallerists and communities, is just one way that we see the benefit of sharing our services – working together — to reach a much broader market both here and internationally.

As the tide continues to rise for all, so much so, we have decided to take the plunge into that far deeper ocean… I want to take this opportunity and announce the opening of our new space in Upper East Side, New York, in 2023.