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Jimmy Kurtnu Pike

AKA Kurnti

185 Career Overall Rank

- 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1940 - 2002
  • Active: 1980

  • Region: Kimberley, WA, Great Sandy Desert, Great Sandy Desert
  • Community: Fitzroy Crossing
  • Outstation: Kurlku
  • Language: Walmajarri

Jimmy Pike was a much better and important artist nationally and internationally than his secondary market results would indicate. While he has been prolifically represented at auction with his works appearing on 123 occasions 99 of these have been prints and graphics and only 19 have been paintings on canvas. Although his average price is just $861 overall the average price of his paintings is a much more respectable $5,135. These include the four original works on paper that  have sold at an average price of $4,989.     

It is unfortunate that so few original artworks have been available on either the primary or secondary market.  Many of these are in important collections here and overseas including the Christensen Fund Collection and the Desert Design Archives. If any of these, especially those held by Desert Design and the Steve Culley Collection are released, they should dramatically alter his results. He was a master of graphic design and despite his death in 2002 it is still possible to purchase many of his prints through the Australian Art Print Network and its client outlets. Moreover fabrics incorporating his imagery are still used by fashion designers, most notably Fremantle’s Megan Salmon. Jimmy’s prints have sold well below primary market prices at auction, where their average price has been a paltry $182. By comparison even the smallest black and white image starts at $450 in the galleries that stock them. Little wonder then that that 86 of the 97 offered have sold. Given time, his prints should slowly increase in value despite the lack of a real secondary Aboriginal print market outside of prints created on rare occasions by major artists like Rover Thomas, Emily Kngwarreye, Paddy Bedford and Queenie McKenzie.

Pike’s top price of was set in June 2007 when Woman Carrying Her Two Boys1989, a painting that measured 76 x 60 cm. sold for $12,000 at Lawson-Menzies (Lot 122). This was $2,000 above the highest estimate ever carried by one of his works. It transcended his previous record set by Lawson~Menzies in May 2004 for a work in texta-pen on paper. Cityscape 1981, a 55.5 x 75.5 cm. eccentric view of Sydney’s sky-scape sold for $8,400 (Lot 10) once more well over it’s high presale estimate of $6,000. That year was in fact the highest grossing year for Pike’s works at auction, generating $20,580 from the five works sold of the six offered.

 Collectors would be well advised to trawl the auction houses to purchase Pike’s prints. Given his prodigious talent, his wide renown, and the affection in which he is held, owning one of Jimmy Pike’s colourful, or bold black and white, prints can bring great pleasure. They are strong confident images by a master of graphic design, a delight to live with, and currently greatly undervalued in the market. While doing so one should always keep an eye out for one of his original works. These are unique and relatively rare and could prove to be a very profitable find.  

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Woman Carrying Her Two Boys, 1989

Woman Carrying Her Two Boys, 1989
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 23/05/2007 for $12,000.00
Size: 76 x 60 cm

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Yakarn, 1990

Yakarn, 1990
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $7,200.00
Size: 60.5 x 76 cm

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Cityscape 1981

Cityscape 1981
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 25/05/2004 for $8,400.00
Size: 55.5 x 75.5 cm

Born at Kurntikujarra in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia during the Second World War, Walmajarri artist Jimmy Pike was just 13 when his people became some of the last to walk into the European-owned cattle stations that were gradually taking over their desert environment. He became a stockman at Cherrabun station near Fitzroy Crossing, and learnt to ride horses and round up cattle. (Pike's English-language name was borrowed from that of a famous Australian jockey). Nearly twenty years later he found work as a carpenter building community housing for the Aboriginal settlement at Fitzroy Crossing.

A tribal murder in 1980 resulted in his imprisonment in Fremantle, and it was here that he came into contact with the techniques and materials of contemporary art practice. Art teachers, Stephen Culley and David Wroth, immediately recognized the extraordinary power of his early artistic explorations, including bright texta colour drawings and vigorous linocut designs. ‘We didn’t teach Pike how to make art, he had that intuitive ability already. All we did was open a few doors for him,' they said (As quoted by Counsel 1997: 56). In Fremantle, memory and imagination had helped him to bring the lost years of his childhood back to life and he became determined to renew those sacred connections. It was in prison too that Pike met Pat Lowe, a British-born woman working as a community welfare officer who had dreamed of coming to Australia as a child and had taught in East Africa. On his release in 1986 Pike and Lowe married, and together they returned to his desert homeland where they lived for the next three and a half years. From here he continued to collaborate with Culley and Wroth who had formed Desert Designs, a conceptual design company that transposed Pike’s traditional imagery and patterns onto fabric, clothing and domestic items. While decorating the body and useful objects fitted well with Aboriginal traditions, Desert Designs managed to maintain the creative and cultural integrity of Pike’s interpretations of ancient iconography while offering a range of new interpretive possibilities. With Jimmy as their artistic leader the company worked with a number of other artists and created a new industry that developed throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s ethically manufacturing and licensing Aboriginal designs for some of the world’s most prestigious companies including Sheraton, Hermes, and Oraton amongst others. This created the income that enabled Jimmy Pike to live a free and independent life as an artist in his own country. For here, in the unique physical and spiritual setting of his desert homeland was the wellspring of Pike’s dynamic creativity, which became identified with its compelling, sinuous line and intense colour. Many of his paintings and prints represented maps and narratives about this country and incorporated decorative patterns his people used on spears, boomerangs or utensils. Yet Pike also brought an individual perspective to his subject matter, which gave his work a very contemporary flavour. His two-dimensional flattened figures and energetic designs conveyed a hard-edge modern sensibility. While he imparted his knowledge and expressed his deep feelings for his ancient traditions, he carried this a step further by responding to more immediate experiences and ideas that fed into his rich and active imagination.

Rediscovering and maintaining the sacred sites and waterholes that once sustained his family’s nomadic journeying became Jimmy’s passion and helped him to consolidate the mythological world of ancestors and Dreaming stories that were his people’s spiritual source. When they were not exploring or hunting, Jimmy continued painting and Pat started to write. At home, far away from the hustle and bustle of the rag trade and the fickle art market, Jimmy continued to paint on his rough work table made from old planks, under a brush shade structure, driving 180 kilometres into Fitzroy Crossing every few weeks to drop off the work and pick up supplies. One of the many creative results of his time with Pat Lowe in the desert was Jilji 1990, a fascinating account of desert life and desert living, written by Lowe and illustrated by Pike. It was the first of several collaborations.

During the eighties when the Australian art world was beginning to open its eyes to the different styles and strands of contemporary Aboriginal art, Jimmy Pike’s work was exhibited alongside other Kimberley artists but just as readily fitted in shows featuring the younger urban artists emerging from city art schools that had been brought up in suburban surroundings. His powerful and distinctive use of colour and line reserved him an expressionistic corner in the middle of this growing diversity. Desert Designs was at the same time finding its place as a new icon of Australian fashion and contributing significantly to international perceptions of Australian culture. By the close of the eighties he had become one of Australia’s most well known Aboriginal artists, receiving important commissions and travelling to the southern cities and overseas for openings and events. As he gained first a national and then an international reputation he had successful exhibitions in China, the Philippines, South Africa, Italy and England, and produced work relating to his experiences in each of these countries.

A gentle but determined man, Jimmy Pike was always patient with curious questioners when he made one of his infrequent visits to the city. Alongside his international fame in the world of art and design, his deep, velvety voice proclaimed his respected position as tribal elder, musician and singer of tribal songs. He was a man of extraordinary energy and mischievous humour. Time spent with him was often full of laughter, as he described the pleasures of eating roast feral cat for Christmas dinner, or explained how he made himself "invisible" when being chased by the police for yet another motoring offense.

While he lived with Pat in his isolated desert homeland they worked on a number of books together. Amongst these were Yinti: desert child (1992), Desert Cowboy (2000) and Jimmy and Pat Meet the Queen (1997) - a delightful fantasy about Aboriginal land rights. In his own quiet way, Jimmy Pike, forced by circumstance into white society, turned his back on it, rekindling his sense of belonging to the land. Though he died of a heart attack on his outstation at  sixty-two years of age, his work continues to celebrate that sense of belonging that asserts its core position at the centre of Indigenous identity.

Profile References

Amadio, Nadine. 1988. Jimmy Pike, Graphics from the Christensen Fund Collection. Western Australia. Vanguard Press.
Counsel, Paul. Autumn 97. Desert Designs . Australia. Artlink 17(1).
Hossack, Rebecca. 8 Nov 2002. Obituary: Jimmy Pike . London. The Independent.
Isaacs, Jennifer. June 2003. Jimmy Pike . Australia. Art and Australia 40(4).
Lowe, Pat. ?. Isolation: Jimmy Pike and Patricia Lowe in the Great Sandy Desert. Australia. Artlink 1(1).
O'Ferrall, Michael. 1995. Jimmy Pike – Desert Designs 1981 – 1995. Western Australia. Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Yakarn, 1990

Yakarn, 1990
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $7,200.00
Size: 60.5 x 76 cm

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Boy with Scorpions

Boy with Scorpions
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 22/11/1999 for $4,370.00
Size: 92 x 60 cm

Jimmy Kurtnu Pike - Untitled (Rain Spirit) 1998

Untitled (Rain Spirit) 1998
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 31/10/2006 for $4,800.00
Size: 65 x 20.5 x 16 cm

Sites

Larripuki - Main Country, Tingki Waterhole, Payarr Rockhole

Subjects

Owl , Body Paint Designs, Colonial History, Rainbow Snakes, Rainbow Snakes, Walmajarri Creation Stories , Walmajarri Creation Stories

Medium

Synthetic Polymer Paint on Linen and Canvas, Works on Paper, Printmaking, Screen Printing, Watercolour Paints on Paper , Drawing

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
185
AIAM100 Rating
0.9901
Sold/Offered
119/148
Clearance Rate
80%
Average Price
$827
Total Price
$98,368
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.1843 0.0435 0.0222 0.0525 0.3208 0.0000 0.3681 0.2778 0.0164 0.0339 0.0000 0.0491 0.1997 0.0163 0.0309 0.0642 0.0616
3/4 3/6 1/2 1/1 5/6 0/2 10/12 4/4 1/5 2/3 0/0 3/3 6/10 1/1 2/4 4/7 3/3
$3,772 $210 $493 $2,760 $4,116 $0 $1,355 $4,822 $270 $288 $0 $268 $1,108 $266 $239 $258 $422
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Woman Carrying Her Two Boys, 1989

sale price: $12,000.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 122 date: 23/05/2007
76 x 60 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
2

Cityscape 1981

sale price: $8,400.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 10 date: 25/05/2004
55.5 x 75.5 cm Pen on paper
3

Yakarn, 1990

sale price: $7,200.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 5 date: 22/11/2006
60.5 x 76 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
4

Beela, 1983

sale price: $6,600.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 13 date: 25/05/2004
51 x 76 cm Oil stick, crayon and pencil on paper
5

Luurn - Kingfisher

sale price: $6,462.00
auction: Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne  lot: 199 date: 27/06/2000
111.5 x 83.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
6

Kumajarti

sale price: $6,000.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Sydney  lot: 66 date: 25/11/2007
75 x 55 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
7

Suite of Five Paintings: Waterhole Country Kurkuminti; Jilji Parrapara Kurkuminti; Nrarukunari Yarnt

sale price: $5,290.00
auction: Phillips De Pury & Company, Sydney  lot: 74 date: 24/07/2000
Each 35 x 45 cm (fra Synthetic polymer paint
8

Untitled (Rain Spirit) 1998

sale price: $4,800.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 265 date: 31/10/2006
65 x 20.5 x 16 cm Wood, natural earth pigments
9

Thunderstorm All Over 1988

sale price: $4,700.00
auction: Deutscher~Menzies, Melbourne  lot: 355 date: 27/06/2000
60.5 x 60.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on board
10

Paparta the Mirage Man, 1990

sale price: $4,560.00
auction: Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney  lot: 64 date: 21/07/2004
120 x 90.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Available Artworks

Sorry There are currently no artworks available for this artist.