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George Ward Tjungurrayi

91 Career Overall Rank

- 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1940
  • Active: 1976

  • Region: Western Desert, NT
  • Community: Kintore
  • Outstation: Lake Mackay, Kiwirrkura
  • Language: Pintupi

George Ward appears to have painted very little between his brief years living at Papunya in the mid to late 1970s, and the late 1990s when he took up painting once more in earnest. Not one single work has appeared at auction that was painted between 1978 and 1998, and it would seem he was not at all active as a painter during this period.

Every one of his 10 highest results was painted from 2003 onward, and it is these highly abstracted Tingari Dreamings that his reputation is founded on. They fall into two categories; those few created for Papunya Tula, and the majority that were created for independent dealers. In fact only three works, including his 2nd highest record, carry Papunya Tula provenance amongst his top ten results.

Soakage Water at Kirrimalunya 2004 set a record for the artist, and a powerful precedent, when this 182 x 305 cm non-art centre work sold at Lawson~Menzies in May 2006 for $42,000 (Lot 144). Despite high demand in the primary market during 2000-2005, most especially after he won the Wynn Prize for landscape art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2004, only 5 works have sold for more than $20,000. However few major works have been offered.

Interestingly, though as many as 47 paintings have failed to sell at auction there are very few indeed that could have been considered to be major paintings. Only 3 carried presale estimates as high as $15,000-25,000. This leads to speculation that his major works are hard to come by and should do well whenever they appear for sale. Only 10 have ever been offered at auction with a low estimate at or above $12,000 and 7 of these have sold.

George Ward’s clearance rate at auction is particularly disappointing for an artist of such renown. Just 35 works of 82 have sold since 2004, the year they first appeared at auction. Of these, 18 have sold for less than $3000 bringing his average price down to $8,246. Though only three works sold out of the 10 on offer during 2010, his average for that year was a far more respectable $14,400, but few works of note have appeared since. 

The dominance of minor works that have gone through sales has skewed George Ward's results downward and taken some shine off his success during the last decade. He is now in his mid seventies and has been painting prodigiously only since 2000, and  prolificly since 2004. Due to fact that he now paints for a number of independent dealers his work can be found in many good galleries and is regularly promoted through ads in art magazines and this has certainly fueled what has been an extremely buoyant market for his work.

Provided the current preference for aesthetic abstraction continues, and works of quality are accompanied with excellent documentation, there is every reason to expect George Ward Tjungurrayi’s best paintings will continue their growth in value. He is a fine artist who still has the dexterity that many of his older peers have now lost. In time, collectors will come to understand more clearly the social and economic parameters at work amongst the artists and dealers of Alice Springs. As they do, prejudice against works created for independent dealers by artists of the caliber of George Ward Tjunurayai should lessen considerably.

George Ward Tjungurrayi - [No Title Given] - Tingari

[No Title Given] - Tingari
Sold by Gaia Auction, Paris on 01/06/2009 for $10,463.00
Size: 134 x 201 cm

George Ward Tjungurrayi - Untitled 2003

Untitled 2003
Sold by Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 24/07/2007 for $36,000.00
Size: 183 x 153 cm

George Ward Tjungurrayi - Tingari Cycle, 2004

Tingari Cycle, 2004
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $31,200.00
Size: 183 x 248 cm

George Ward Tjungurrayi encountered welfare patrols while living in the desert near Tjukurla W.A. southeast of Kiwirrkurra, and west of Kintore. Although they were born of different mothers George Ward shared the same father with Yala Yala Gibbs and Willy Tjunurrayai. He arrived in Papunya in the early 1960’s while still in his teenage years and worked as a fencer and butcher in the community kitchen. Beginning to paint in 1976, he initially  assisted senior artists who worked within the tightly knit group of established Pintupi painters. The creation of large works during these early years of the Western Desert art movement involved many men at various levels of responsibility. For the younger ones, like George, it was an apprenticeship in the skills, knowledge and cultural obligations required for the artistic vocation and for eventual ceremonial leadership within his tribal area. He left Papunya with his young family during the late 1970’s and lived for a time in Warburton, Wiluna and Jigalong before working as an assistant on Uta Uta’s monumental Yumari canvas in 1981. Spurred on after listening intently to the discussions amongst the Pintupi elders about returning to their traditional lands, George moved to Kintore later that same year and, in 1984, moved even deeper in to Pintupi territory and finally settled at Warakurna from where he frequently travels between the Western Desert and Alice Springs.

During the early eighties, George was reputed to have painted the mythical journeys of the Tingari ancestors through his country. He followed the traditional manner of concentric circles and dotted infill using earth colours. He did not begin painting in earnest however until after the death of his brother Yala Yala Gibbs in 1998.  It was from this period that his career as a painter could realy be said to have started properly. He rapidly developed his own style based on men’s designs used to adorn ceremonial artefacts including dance regalia with their mesmeric interlocking geometric and parallel linear patterning. In the groundbreaking exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW (Papunya Tula Genesis and Genius, 2000), that chartered the emergence of the contemporary Aboriginal art movement, George Ward was one of the lesser-known artists, yet he already stood out with his tendency towards a ‘stripped down’ iconography. (Rex Butler) His own style was emerging and it leaned heavily towards abstraction. It emphasized the bold linear qualities of the Pintupi painters but moved away from the distinctive Western Desert dots and lexicon of iconographs that were developed during the first five years of the movement. George would start with simple designs that marked the features of his country such as sand hills, waterholes or dreaming sites but then take flight within his own artistic process. His work came to less represent a particular Dreaming and more, like abstract art of the European tradition, while exploring the concept of Dreaming itself (or even more so, the sense of Dreaming and the energy or awareness it aroused). George would experiment with mixing a limited colour combination to produce different optical effects, sometimes bold contrasting stripes and at other times, gentle undulating harmonies. His connection to country is felt in the powerful sense of vibrancy that emanates from his paintings. The canvas seems to pulsate or shimmer. The reworked surfaces at times change colour on one brush to effect silvery shadows that flicker alongside his long, fluid, painterly strokes. The imperative of his Dreaming springs from his artistic expressiveness, breaking through the constraints of tradition and its culturally specific focus.  

Sometimes in the history of an art movement such breaks with tradition can seem at first to be transgressive but in George’s case his creative trajectory chimed perfectly with public sensibility. The great success of Emily Kngwarreye’s work during the mid 1990’s confirmed the market’s demand for painterliness and Georges Ward's imagery showed both the sought after degree of abstraction as well as an individuality of expression. The earlier phase of direct articulation of symbols and designs based on ceremony had provided the foundational starting point but the booming national and international interest was hungry for the leading edge. The reputation of artists such as George Ward rose to prominence and was reflected in the continuing refinement and sophistication of their particular trademark styles. He was awarded the prestigious Wynne Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2004 and since that time his work has appeared in many important collections and exhibitions both in Australia and overseas. He subsequently worked for a time in Alice Springs, producing works of high quality for a number of private dealers, most importantly Tony Mason, for whom he painted a number of major works. While several entered good collections and have achieved high prices at auction the controversy following articles on the Alice Springs art trade during 2004 and 2005 have unfairly hardened the attitude of a section of the market toward these and other works created outside of the ‘Papunya Tula’ company. This is unjustified given their quality. Nevertheless, despite the politics of the contemporary Aboriginal art market and the burgeoning interest in his work, George himself has continued to paint since that time in his air-conditioned garage at Kintore or on canvases carried with him to Warakurna, deep in the Australian desert. He remains the quintessential desert nomad who has been described as a modernist who ‘redeems the past’ by revealing to his audience the wonder of its true potential.  (Butler, 2002).

Profile References

Butler, R. October 2002. George Tjungurrayi: Unforseen Catalogue . Queensland. Fire-Works Gallery .
Johnson, Vivien. 2008. Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists. Australia. IAD Press.
Perkins, H & Fink, H. 2000. Papunya Tula, Genesis and Genius. Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Sarks, Elizabeth. March 2003. Untitled. Australia. Australian Art Collector, Issue 23, p. 73.

George Ward Tjungurrayi - Tingari Cycle 2003

Tingari Cycle 2003
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 09/11/2005 for $7,800.00
Size: 122 x 122 cm

George Ward Tjungurrayi - Tingari Cycle, 2004

Tingari Cycle, 2004
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 22/11/2006 for $31,200.00
Size: 183 x 248 cm

George Ward Tjungurrayi - Soakage Water of Kirrimalunya, 2004

Soakage Water of Kirrimalunya, 2004
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 30/05/2006 for $42,000.00
Size: 182 x 305 cm

Sites

Lake Macdonald , Lake Mackay, Putulnga, Walawala

Subjects

Tingari , Yam, Quoll, Seed , Snake

Medium

Synthetic Polymer Paint 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
91
AIAM100 Rating
1.8648
Sold/Offered
44/101
Clearance Rate
44%
Average Price
$7,173
Total Price
$315,615
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.1749 0.2015 0.4770 0.5451 0.1158 0.4054 0.3600 0.0831 0.3899 0.1586 0.0000 0.0000 0.0657
0/0 0/0 0/0 0/0 3/8 3/9 3/6 4/8 2/10 7/18 3/10 2/3 6/8 2/2 0/0 8/11 1/8
$0 $0 $0 $0 $3,400 $4,510 $25,280 $18,570 $3,353 $3,354 $14,400 $1,725 $4,223 $6,292 $0 $2,836 $4,320
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Soakage Water of Kirrimalunya, 2004

sale price: $42,000.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 144 date: 30/05/2006
182 x 305 cm Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen
2

Untitled 2003

sale price: $36,000.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 52 date: 24/07/2007
183 x 153 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
3

Tingari Cycle, 2004

sale price: $31,200.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 43 date: 22/11/2006
183 x 248 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
4

Tingari

sale price: $31,020.00
auction: Elder Fine Art, Adelaide  lot: 109 date: 24/06/2007
305 x 180 cm Acrylic on linen
5

Tingari at Karrkurritinytja (Lake Macdonald), 2005

sale price: $21,600.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett , Melbourne  lot: 49 date: 06/10/2010
183 x 243 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
6

Tingari Men's Travels to Kaakurantintja (2003)

sale price: $14,400.00
auction: Sotheby's Australia, Sydney  lot: 57 date: 15/10/2012
183 x 152 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
7

Untitled [Designs Associated with Kaakuratintja (Lake Macdonald)], 2003

sale price: $12,200.00
auction: Bonhams, Sydney  lot: 77 date: 24/03/2013
153 x 122 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
8

Nyumpu, 2005

sale price: $12,000.00
auction: Deutscher and Hackett , Melbourne  lot: 45 date: 06/10/2010
152.5 x 182 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
9

[No Title Given] - Tingari

sale price: $10,463.00
auction: Gaia Auction, Paris  lot: 8 date: 01/06/2009
134 x 201 cm Acrylic on canvas
10

Soakage Water of Kirrimalunya 2005

sale price: $9,600.00
auction: Menzies, Sydney  lot: 146 date: 25/03/2010
123 x 212.5 cm Synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Available Artworks

Sorry There are currently no artworks available for this artist.