On 19 November, Bonhams will offer works from the collection of the late Mary Macha AM. A leading light in the promotion of Australia's indigenous art, Macha, who passed away in March at the age of 94, worked tirelessly and passionately towards the cause. Francesca Cavazzini, Aboriginal Art specialist commented "we are honored to be offering works from Mary's personal collection. These were very dear to her and represent the key artists whose careers she was instrumental in launching. This is a unique opportunity to acquire works from one of the most influential figures in the history of Aboriginal art. We are extremely grateful to Kim Akerman, close friend and collaborator of Macha's, who provided the following summarized account of Mary's trailblazing days (the full version is available in the auction catalog)".

In the early 1970s, in a period when Aboriginal art was generally considered to be restricted to areas of Central Australia and Arnhem Land, Mary pushed and promoted Indigenous art produced in Western Australia and fought for the recognition of its artists. In 1973 she was to head Aboriginal Traditional Arts in Perth, the major outlet for West Australian Indigenous Art. Collages of bark rubbed shoulders with carved emu eggs, museum class artifacts, Arnhem Land bark paintings and the emerging acrylic works of Papunya and other Central Australian settlements.

Mary encouraged the production of art and the maintenance of traditional skills wherever possible. Among Mary's early coups must be considered the revival of Bardi raft making skills by artists such as Roy Wiggan (lots 23 and 24, $800-1,200 each) who produced innovative thread-cross sculptural forms - the ilma dance ornaments within the Bardi culture. Her interest in the Wanjina art of the north and central Kimberley elevated the form from a tourist-oriented commodity to high contemporary fine art. Mary promoted and marketed works by artists such as the late Alec Mingelmanganu (lot 20, $40,000-60,000 and lot 29: $30,000-40,000), Geoffrey Mangalomara and Manila Kutwit, as well as members of the Karadada family, who produce works of art to this day.

It was Mary's recognition of the strength of the works by Paddy Jaminji (lot 31, $8,000-12,000) associated with the Kurirr Kurirr ceremony at Warmun that led to the emergence of Rover Thomas (lot 22: $15,000-20,000, lot 30: $30,000-40,000 and lot 32: $50,000-70,000), one of Australia's most significant contemporary artists, and the development of the most radical Australian art movement of the late 20th century, the Warmun or Turkey Creek school of art. These artists presented a totally new perspective on how to present the Australian landscape and the traditional values embedded in it.

As wider interest swung towards a re-evaluation of the importance of Aboriginal Art as a reflection of the national identity, many institutions and collectors sought Mary's advice as they developed their own collections. Since 1983 Mary Macha had been in private practice, running an Aboriginal Art Consultancy. Mary acted as a consultant to many private and public collectors and institutions as well as curating the Indigenous section of the Lord McAlpine of West Green Collection.

Mary has with characteristic modesty, always let others take credit for, what is really, rightly, her own success story - the international recognition of Aboriginal art in Western Australia.
Mary's role, when we look at the Aboriginal Art world of Western Australia, must not be forgotten and should not be unacknowledged.

Aboriginal Art Specialist: Francesca Cavazzini
Tel: +61 2 8412 2222

Media contact: Emma Miller
Tel: +61 (0) 401 642 535


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. Today, the auction house offers more sales than any of its rivals. The main salerooms are in London, New York and Hong Kong. Sales are also held in the UK in Knightsbridge and Edinburgh; in the US, in San Francisco and Los Angeles; in Europe, in Paris and Stuttgart and in Sydney, Australia. Bonhams also has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of forthcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit


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