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Barbara Weir

95 Career Overall Rank

153 2016 Market Rank

  • Born: 1945
  • Active: 1989-

  • Region: Eastern Desert, NT
  • Community: Utopia
  • Outstation: Atnwengerrp
  • Language: Anmatyerre, Alyawarre

Although she began painting as early as 1992, Barbara Weir’s career began in earnest in 1997 in the company of her mother, Minnie Pwerle, and her cousin (tribal sister) Gloria Petyarre. Prior to this she was principally considered a batik artist.  Despite the origins of Utopia art in the production of silk batik lengths, these have not proved to have a resale market other than those created by Emily Kngwarreye whose1987 Batik depicting the Site of Urapuntja sold for $19,550 at Sotheby's, in November 1998, (Lot 160). Barbara’s 1988 batik, the only one offered for sale at auction to date, failed to find a buyer in Deutscher~Menzies June 2000 sale (Lot 319) despite an estimate of just $1,800-2,500.

In what is the most extraordinary case of unjustified prejudice against an artist’s work, Sotheby’s have failed to offer even one single work by Barbara Weir despite her prominence in the primary market. Her solo exhibitions here and overseas have been outstanding successes and her Grass Seed Dreaming paintings measuring 120 x 180 cm have sold relatively regularly in Mbantua Gallery, Flinders Lane, and Fireworks Gallery in Brisbane for around $15,000. Amongst her top 10 results, all have been set since May 2005 when Lawson~Menzies achieved a record price of $21,600 for Wild Bush Grasses 2001 (Lot 36). Since then this result has been equaled and beaten by works offered in November 2005 and May 2007 by Lawson~Menzies. Her current record stands at $31,200 for a 2003 rendition of Grass Seed Dreaming measuring 240 x 150 cm, which far exceeded its presale estimate of $20,000-22,000. Nevertheless, the last time a sale result was amongst her top 10 was 2007 and only one recorded sale since then (2009) is listed amongst her top 20.

Unfortunately her records are dominated by smaller works at lower price estimates with only six of her sales exceeding $10,000 while 30 have sold for between $2,500 and  $10,000. Her lower prices include a high proportion of works created prior to 2001. However her early works can do well, and one of these achieved her fourth highest price to date when sold at Elders Fine Art in November 2005 for $16,650 (Lot 92).

Generally Barbara Weir's prices tend to increase with size, and there is a premium paid for more recent works, which tend to be more highly charged with colour and have greater appeal than her early paintings. Her clearance rate has been low, resting at just 55% in 2010, 57% by the end of 2011 and 61% at the end of 2015. However this is predictable for an artist whose work is so readily available in the primary market. Her My Mother’s Country paintings are greatly undervalued as these works in the 120 x 180 cm size range currently sell for up to $40,000 in galleries on those rare occasions when they appear. Her more gestural Grass Seed Dreamings may currently be judged unfairly against Gloria Petyarre’s Bush Medicine Leaf works but this is unlikely to continue indefinitely. As Weir gains greater recognition and emerges as a major artist and inheritor of Emily’s and Minnie’s mantle, the very best of her paintings are set to increase rapidly in value. The widespread re-evaluation and recognition of Dacou Gallery provenance, which Sotheby’s has generally rejected when selecting Emily Kngwarreye’s paintings for sale, will also help in ensuring the other artists it has represented, including Minnie Pwerle and Barbara Weir, will gain greater and greater recognition in the secondary market as time passes.

Barbara Weir - My Mother's Country, 1998

My Mother's Country, 1998
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 25/05/2004 for $9,000.00
Size: 192 x 124 cm

Barbara Weir - Spinifex Grass

Spinifex Grass
Sold by Leonard Joel Pty. Ltd., Melbourne on 13/11/2006 for $9,440.00
Size: 182 x 122 cm

Barbara Weir - Grass Seed Dreaming 2005

Grass Seed Dreaming 2005
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 30/05/2006 for $15,600.00
Size: 150 x 210 cm

Barabara Weir, who was originally named Florie, was born of mixed parentage at Bundy River Station in the Eastern Desert in 1945. Her mother Minnie Pwerle was 18 years old at the time, and her father, Jack Weir, owned the large cattle station on which she lived. In accordance with the prevailing law of the time, Florie’s birth resulted in her father’s imprisonment, and the ever-present likelihood that she would be taken away from her mother by the native welfare department. At around nine years of age, just as Minnie feared, Barbara was forced to exchange her carefree bush existence for life with a variety of foster families first in Alice Springs, and then over the following years in Victoria, and Darwin. By the age of 28 Barbara had given birth to five children of her own and was living in Darwin. As luck would have it, her husband met Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri in an Alice Springs hotel and over a drink Tjapaltjarri recalled  ‘Weir… yes I remember that one, she was taken away from her family out at Utopia‘ (cited in McCulloch 2003). This chance conversation sparked a visit to Utopia in 1968.  However reconnecting to her country was not as idyllic as the notion might suggest. Minnie had re-married, and having been unable to resolve the pain of her daughter’s removal, had not spoken of it to Barbara’s half siblings who were unaware of her existence. To further complicate matters Barbara could not communicate in Anamtjerre/Alyawarre.

It was through her relationship with her auntie, Emily Kngwarreye who had helped to look after her as a small child, that she found the acceptance that encouraged her to return to live in Utopia. According to Weir 'it was lucky Auntie Emily was still around because I wouldn’t have stayed otherwise‘ (cited in Geissler 2006: 38). She moved to Utopia permanently a decade later in 1977 and, with the breakdown of her marriage, went on to master both of her people’s languages and build a loving relationship with her mother. In the process of doing so, Barbara inherited Minnie’s Dreamings and was taught the associations between the land of her personal Dreamings, and women’s ceremonies and body decoration. She discovered her own affinity with the bush berries, grass seeds, wild flowers and the desert country of her birth that was to become the wellspring of her art.

Barbara Weir began working in Batik in the late 1980's, and traveled to Indonesia in 1994 with a group of artists to further their skills in this medium. She returned with renewed enthusiasm to forge her own artistic style. This experience, coupled with a workshop in Switzerland during 1996 proved to be the turning point in her career. Although she began painting grass seed images around this time, these were markedly different from her later works in this series.  Simultaneously, no doubt influenced by the effects she was able to achieve with the tjanting in her batik works on silk, she began developing a painting style in which she intimately rendered images of her mother’s country. The structure and composition of these early paintings were founded on conventional traditional motifs as seen in works like My Mother’s Country 1997 in which extremely subtle tonal shifts and overlays, less inclined towards abstraction than those that have followed, displayed magnificent technical detail. At their peak these works conveyed a divine sensibility, which she has occasionally expanded upon in rare, labour intensive periods since that time. This stream of intimate detailed paintings developed later in to the most complex of her painting styles in which depictions of her ‘mother’s country’ are composed from blankets of finely arranged dots, beneath which lie submerged symbols relating to specific sites and sacred ‘women’s law’.

The foundation of her second, and most popular motif and style, her Grass Seed Dreamings, lies in her fine linear technique in which she overlaps thick, vigorously applied brilliantly coloured brushstrokes in works that superbly evoke the movement of native grass. What began as far more conventional, less highly charged works in the late 1990’s displayed a transformation around the turn of the millennium, coinciding with her first solo exhibition Dream Works, a sell out success at both Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne and Gallery Savah in Sydney. These exhibitions forecast her use of bright colour applied with a freedom of expression reminiscent of Emily Kngwarreye’s daring unselfconscious works a decade earlier. Since this time Barbara Weir’s paintings have been included in exhibitions in every capital city in Australia as well as important shows in Singapore, Chicago, Santa Fe, Paris, Copenhagen and Auckland as she has built a career that continues to blossom and develop both technically and artistically.

Barbara Weir now divides her time between her home in Adelaide, a studio residence in Alice Springs, and regular visits to Utopia for painting workshops with her family. The workshops are run by her son, Fred Torres, the Director of DACOU Aboriginal art gallery in Adelaide. Although informal, they provide a medium through which materials are distributed to a number of Utopia artists in the absence of an arts centre in the community. While Torres also acts as Weir’s manager she paints for several other dealers, most importantly Tim Jennings and his Mbantua Art Gallery in Alice Springs, which has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the artist.

Barbara Weir is both artistically gifted and politically aware. She played an instrumental role in Utopia’s successful land rights claim during the 1970's, and was the first women president of the Urapuntja Council in 1985. She is a prolific and highly gifted painter whose work operates within the tradition passed on to her by her family while continually extending its artistic possibilities. Her work straddles the two major identifiable Eastern Desert painting styles; that of the gestural painters exemplified by her auntie Emily and her mother Minnie, and that of the highly intimate and painstaking imagery created by Kathleen Petyarre and Angelina Ngal. She is an artist for all seasons and one definitely worth following as her career develops over the next decade.      

Profile References

McCulloch, Susan. 8 Nov 2003. All in the Family. Australia. The Australian.
Geissler, Marie. 2006. Barbara Weir: Painting & Printmaking. Australia. Craft Arts International 66.

Barbara Weir - My Mother's Country, 1997

My Mother's Country, 1997
Sold by Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney on 08/05/2002 for $9,400.00
Size: 151 x 183 cm

Barbara Weir - My Mother's Country

My Mother's Country
Sold by Bonhams & Goodman, Melbourne on 07/08/2007 for $9,600.00
Size: 127 x 130 cm

Barbara Weir - Grass Seed Dreaming, 2005

Grass Seed Dreaming, 2005
Sold by Lawson~Menzies, Sydney on 23/05/2007 for $21,600.00
Size: 307 x 185 cm

Sites

Atnwengerrp

Subjects

Body Paint Designs, Grass Seed , Awelye Women’s Ceremony, Bush Berry, Wildflowers

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
95
AIAM100 Rating
1.7699
Sold/Offered
67/109
Clearance Rate
61%
Average Price
$4,815
Total Price
$322,635
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
0.0597 0.0000 0.1877 0.2778 0.3912 0.9310 0.4260 0.4865 0.0000 0.2550 0.1004 0.0690 0.3602 0.1897 0.0655 0.2999 0.1016
1/2 0/0 2/2 4/6 5/7 9/17 4/9 5/5 0/3 4/6 2/7 2/3 14/14 4/12 2/5 6/7 3/4
$3,565 $0 $8,813 $4,824 $6,122 $10,700 $11,343 $9,468 $0 $4,065 $2,520 $1,191 $662 $2,249 $1,074 $2,499 $1,148
Yearly Market Performance Graph from 2000 - 2016

Top 10 Artworks Sold at Auction

1

Grass Seed Dreaming, 2003

sale price: $31,200.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 126 date: 09/11/2005
240 x 150 cm Synthetic polymer paint on Belgian linen
2

Grass Seed Dreaming, 2005

sale price: $21,600.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 87 date: 23/05/2007
307 x 185 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
3

Wild Bush Grasses, 2001

sale price: $21,600.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 36 date: 31/05/2005
213 x 152 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
4

My Mothers Country

sale price: $16,650.00
auction: Elder Fine Art, Adelaide  lot: 92 date: 27/11/2005
119 x 89 cm Acrylic on canvas
5

Grass Seed Dreaming, 2004

sale price: $15,600.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 6 date: 22/11/2006
138 x 201 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
6

Grass Seed Dreaming 2005

sale price: $15,600.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 91 date: 30/05/2006
150 x 210 cm Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen
7

My Mother's Country

sale price: $9,600.00
auction: Bonhams & Goodman, Melbourne  lot: 137 date: 07/08/2007
127 x 130 cm Acrylic on canvas
8

Spinifex Grass

sale price: $9,440.00
auction: Leonard Joel Pty. Ltd., Melbourne  lot: 181 date: 13/11/2006
182 x 122 cm Acrylic on linen
9

My Mother's Country, 1997

sale price: $9,400.00
auction: Shapiro Auctioneers, Sydney  lot: 280 date: 08/05/2002
151 x 183 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen
10

My Mother's Country, 1998

sale price: $9,000.00
auction: Lawson~Menzies, Sydney  lot: 224 date: 25/05/2004
192 x 124 cm Synthetic polymer paint on linen

Available Artworks

Grass Seed Dreaming by Barbara Weir
Grass Seed Dreaming - 2010
Barbara Weir 1

90 x 45 cm
#9873 LOCATION: Bondi
$3,000.00