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George Mung Mung

AKA Lilmayading, Lirrmayirriny

111 Career Overall Rank

- 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1921 - 1991
  • Active: 1970

  • Region: East Kimberley, WA
  • Community: Turkey Creek (Warmun), Turkey Creek (Warmun)
  • Outstation: Frog Hollow
  • Language: Gidja, Jambin

George Mung Mung was amongst the initial instigators of the art movement at Warmun in the East Kimberley and as a result his works have been included in major art collections around Australia including the Holmes a Court Collection and the Berndt Museum of Anthropology. His inclusion in the latter gives insight into the anthropological value of many of his works and also explains the stellar result of  $29 900 that was achieved for one of his finest works as early as 1999. The painting, Texas Country 1985,  sold for almost three times its estimated $8,000-12,000. It was a remarkable work combining diverse elements such as a beautifully rendered crocodile and bird, and perspectives of distant hills, with spectacular coherency. The record price was undoubtedly deserved, both for its historical significance and its aesthetic beauty. However it was a precedent that seemed difficult to match, and the record stood until 2007, a year in which three paintings entered the artist’s top ten results. 

His new record-breaking work had all of the qualities of the former record holder and sold for $34,000, a tad below the high estimate placed on it in Sotheby’s July sale (Lot 120). Along with this result Frog Hollow near Turkey Creek, an undated painting with Waringarri Aboriginal Art provenance, sold for $24,000 at Sotheby’s in November (Lot 44). It was a typically animated rendition of the landscape in which Mung Mung depicted elements in both lateral and aerial perspective. The arabesques of flowing water at the top of the painting graphically imitated the undulating hills and limestone ridges in the lower section. It incorporated an image of the Rainbow Serpent, indicating the presence of the ancestral forces that vivify the land. The final work of the three 2007 entries was a nice 1989 board featuring a statuesque image of a Kangaroo which appeared as if it were the embodiment of a particular site amongst the surrounding hills. It sold for $18,000 at Lawson~Menzies in November (Lot 117). As a result of these entries George Mung Mung’s clearance rate jumped by 5% although, more impressively his average price increased from $10,544 to its present $11,524. Only one work appeared at auction in 2008 and it failed to attract a buyer and in 2009 a wooden carving, Carved Barramundi Ceremonial Fish c.1970s, sold for a reasonable $5,040. While 2010 brought the sale of a single work, Untitled 1993, a very endearing piece which sold for just under $4,000 at Mossgreen Auctions (Lot 54).

While the best of his figurative works have done well a large number of George’s works are executed in a very dark palette and lack the allure of works by several of his contemporaries. There has been difficulty in selling both his large, highly estimated works such as Berlanyji Country 1990, which passed in at auction both in 1999 and 2005 when offered at Philips ($20,000-25,000) and Lawson~Menzies ($25,000-35,000) respectively. Those that have failed to sell were created between 1986 and 1990 and have carried a wide variety of estimates. While two carvings of Creator Snakes both failed to sell, a lovely small carved fish created in 1988 achieved $3,120 when offered at Lawson~Menzies with an estimate of $1,500-2,000 in November 2006 (Lot 233).

 The best works by George Mung Mung rarely appear for sale. The majority of these were created prior to the introduction of synthetic glue binders making the quality of the surface of many works extremely delicate and alluring. The organic surfaces, figurative detail and delicacy of execution make these paintings highly desirable, and within his oeuvre there exist remarkable treasures of rare brilliance. George passed away just as Warmun began to gain wide recognition and it is amazing to recall that many of his paintings were created at a time when there really was no market for East Kimberly art at all. Mary Macha who played an influential role in promoting the work of these artists has often been quoted as remarking how very hard it was, having been told by the Aboriginal Arts and Crafts company ‘don’t buy any more of that stuff, there’s no market‘ (Laurie 2000: 14). Although this is now far from the case, George did not see the full glory that Warmun would achieve, nor have the chance to realize his own individual potential as an artist as he might have done. He was a great teacher, who was absolutely devoted to the Warmun school in his desire to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations of Gidja children, and would have been astounded and delighted to know how productively the seeds the he and his contemporaries sowed have grown to bear fruit. He is an artist whose works are included in many important public and private collections, and should never be overlooked by those fortunate enough to be present when a work becomes available for purchase.   

George Mung Mung - Lankerrji - Death Adder Snake c. 1987

Lankerrji - Death Adder Snake c. 1987
Sold by Sotheby's, Melbourne on 24/07/2007 for $34,800.00
Size: 90 x 230 cm

George Mung Mung - Frog Hollow Near Turkey Creek

Frog Hollow Near Turkey Creek
Sold by Sotheby's, Sydney on 25/11/2007 for $24,000.00
Size: 100 x 80 cm

George Mung Mung - Texas Country 1985

Texas Country 1985
Sold by Sotheby's, Melbourne on 28/06/1999 for $29,900.00
Size: 54 x 124 cm (irregul

George Mung Mung spent his life in the East Kimberley cattle industry until he finally settled, in his fifties, where he was originally born and spent his earliest years. His father, Charlie Mungmung, had worked as a police tracker stationed at Turkey Creek at the time of his birth and George began work in the stock camps while still a boy. He was employed by the manager of the Tickelera Cattle Station, Authur Muggleton, and became a drover. As a youth he travelled across the country as far as Queensland with up to 1,200 head of cattle. Later, when the new owner of Tickelara, Bill Scurthrope, sold up and moved to Spring Creek, George, now married to Betty Carrington, joined him and had a family. More than a decade later they returned to the East Kimberley to work with Jimmy Kline, the manager of Texas Downs Station where George became head stockman, and when Kline moved to Turkey Creek, George followed. He later spent four years breaking horses for Tom Davis at Lissadell Station before relocating his family to Wyndham, where his children could attend school. However, with the establishment of the Warmun Community in the mid seventies George once again returned to live at Warmun with his family.

The Pastoral Award of 1969, which gave equal pay to Indigenous workers, had all but ended the lifestyle of the Aboriginal stockmen. They found themselves thrown off stations, homeless and unemployed. In its wake, Warmun provided both a shelter and, coincidentally, a site for cultural and artistic revival. This was given extra impetus when George and a number of his contemporaries, including Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji, were convinced that the devastation Cyclone Tracy wreaked on Darwin in 1994, was the manifestation of the Rainbow Serpent’s anger at the abandonment of traditional culture in the face of white influence. In a dream Rover Thomas was visited by the spirit of a female relative who had recently died in a car crash, and over the following year this dream became the basis of a song cycle during which the singers revisited all of the most important East Kimberley Dreaming sites. By 1978 this had developed in to the Krill Krill Ceremony during which the woman’s spirit travels from the moment of her death in a medical airplane hovering over a whirlpool, to her conception site near Turkey Creek and on throughout the Kimberley to eventually end near Cape Levique as she overlooks the destruction of Darwin. From the outset George Mung Mung aided the central figures of this invention, Rover Thomas and Paddy Jaminji, in creating the ceremonial boards for the dancers to carry in this reenactment.

His own artistic development was significantly influenced by these early origins, in both manner and concept. Unlike the large ephemeral ground paintings of the Western Desert with their omnipotent viewpoint, these paintings on plywood boards invited a range of different perspectives. George’s art comprised works that incorporated both aerial and lateral depictions of country simultaneously, as well as figurative profiles of ancestral animals and occasional descriptive annotation. In George Mung Mung’s works, and specifically his earliest paintings on board, naturalistic figurative representations are far more prolific than in Western Desert works, no doubt derived from the Warmun painters tendency to depict the features of the environment created by the ancestors, rather than mapping the journey of ancestral travels, as in desert painting.

 Initially George’s paintings differed greatly from those of his contemporaries. While Rover’s sparse canvases, demonstrated a ‘simplicity that suggested there was far more to each work than met the eye'  (McDonald 2004: 21). George Mung Mung’s works were characterized by more complex composition combined with greater figuration. Later he tended toward works that were far bolder and geometric, and executed in a far darker palette. In these works he always portrayed the country, where in his final years he would go and visit with his wife, children and grandchildren. A favorite camping spot was Cattle Creek, where they would sit under the tree that stood just ten meters from where Betty was born and where they had married. With his family around them they would relate stories around the camp fire that would connect them all to their country. George suddenly died in 1991, just as Rover’s work was being presented at the Venice Biennale, and Kimberley paintings were beginning to make a major impact on the Aboriginal art market.

Profile References

McDonald, John. 4 March 2004. Rover's Wide Range. Australia. Financial Review 21.
Laurie, Victoria. 11 Feb 2000. Midwife to a Bold New Art. Australia. The Australian 14.

George Mung Mung - Ceremonial Fish, 1988

Ceremonial Fish, 1988
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $3,120.00
Size: Length: 55 cm

George Mung Mung - Jarcarloon (The Artists Country) 1990

Jarcarloon (The Artists Country) 1990
Sold by Sotheby's, Sydney on 09/11/1997 for $6,325.00
Size: 90 x 120 cm

George Mung Mung - Frog Hollow Near Turkey Creek

Frog Hollow Near Turkey Creek
Sold by Sotheby's, Sydney on 25/11/2007 for $24,000.00
Size: 100 x 80 cm

Sites

Texas Downs, Frog Hollow (Ngarrgooroon), Ord River, Tickelara (Jarlarloon), Mount Glass, Springvale Station, Alice Downs

Subjects

Hunting Stories, Snake , Fish, Kangaroo, Echidna, Women’s Dreamings

Medium

Ochres on Linen and Canvas

Regional Map

Note: This map is a representation and not accurate. Some sites are sacred and therefore not shown.

Market Performance

Career Totals

AIAM100 Rank
111
AIAM100 Rating
1.5389
Sold/Offered
15/30
Clearance Rate
50%
Average Price
$11,524
Total Price
$172,867
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.0607 0.0917 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.2498 0.0559 0.4800 0.0000 0.1180 0.0557 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000
1/1 1/3 0/0 0/0 0/1 2/5 1/1 3/4 0/1 2/4 1/2 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0/2
$3,680 $8,400 $0 $0 $0 $15,600 $3,120 $25,600 $0 $3,480 $3,107 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Lankerrji - Death Adder Snake c. 1987

sale price: $34,800.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: 120 date: 24/07/2007
90 x 230 cm Natural earth pigments and natural binders on canvas
2

Texas Country 1985

sale price: $29,900.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: date: 28/06/1999
54 x 124 cm (irregul Natural earth pigments and natural binder pencil and crayon on plywood
3

Frog Hollow Near Turkey Creek

sale price: $24,000.00
auction: Sotheby's, Sydney  lot: 44 date: 25/11/2007
100 x 80 cm Natural and synthetic pigments and binders with pencil on canvas
4

Wudal Wadul (The Dreamtime Woman) 1990

sale price: $22,800.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: 96 date: 15/11/2005
80 x 100 cm Natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on canvas
5

Kangaroo c. 1989

sale price: $18,000.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 117 date: 14/11/2007
117 x 119 cm Natural earth pigments on board
6

Untitled c. 1988

sale price: $8,400.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: 1 date: 09/07/2001
50 x 40.5 cm Natural earth pigments and bush gum on canvas
7

Ngarrgooroon Country 1990

sale price: $8,400.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: 95 date: 15/11/2005
50 x 70 cm Natural earth pigments and synthetic binder on canvas
8

Jarcarloon (The Artists Country) 1990

sale price: $6,325.00
auction: Sotheby's, Sydney  lot: 1 date: 09/11/1997
90 x 120 cm Natural earth pigments on canvas
9

Carved Barramundi Ceremonial Fish, c. 1970s

sale price: $5,040.00
auction: Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney  lot: 142 date: 28/06/2009
69.5 cm length Natural earth pigments on wood
10

Untitled c. 1990

sale price: $3,680.00
auction: Sotheby's, Melbourne  lot: 2 date: 26/06/2000
45.5 x 61 cm Natural earth pigments and natural binder on canvas board

Available Artworks

Sorry There are currently no artworks available for this artist.