Albert Namatjira Painting Returned

The buyer of a rare Albert Namatjira painting that was being sold to raise money for kidney dialysis has paid above the asking price and donated the artwork back to the art centre where it originally came from.

The Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation purchased Albert Namatjira’s Mount Hermannsburg in 1989, before loaning it to the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs.

But last month the corporation donated the work to The Purple House, to help raise money for life-saving dialysis treatment for Aboriginal people living in remote desert communities.

Nurse Deb Lillis stands by the bedside of dialysis patient Sam Nelson in Alice Springs.

“It’s an absolutely fabulous outcome, because it means we’ve got the money that we need to open services and people in Alice Springs still get to enjoy this rare work by Albert Namatjira,” Sarah Brown, the chief executive officer of The Purple House, said.

“Between paying the price the painting was valued at, plus adding an extra donation, we’ve just received $95,000.”

The artwork almost left Alice Springs, to be sold to the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.

“Our understanding is it would probably go to Queensland because we knew the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art is interested in growing their Albert Namatjira collection,” Dr Mark Crees, director of the Araluen Cultural Precinct in Alice Springs, said.

“The buyer got on the phone and said ‘look we’re pretty keen that it stays in Alice Springs, how about we buy it?” he said.

Sarah Brown, CEO of The Purple House

The painting will join almost 50 other works held by the Araluen Cultural Precinct, making it the second largest public collection of Albert Namatjira works in Australia.

“This is about the local Alice Springs community being determined to keep art work by Albert Namatjira here in Alice Springs,” Dr Crees said.

Albert Namatjira  - Hermannsburg Mission with Mount Hermannsburg. 1937. Watercolour on paper. courtesy Araluen Art Collection

Dr Crees said the work is one of the most significant because of its portrayal of Mount Hermannsburg.

“This work is like a counterpoint to another work that we have by Albert Namatjira of the Hermannsburg mission,” he said.

“In one painting you see the mission and the houses and in the other you just see Mount Hermannsburg, having them both together is quite delightful,” Dr Crees said.

Dr Crees said the stories around art help people to understand their value.

A watercolour painting of a mountain and gum tree in Central Australia.

“For example the Mona Lisa was not the most famous painting that Da Vinci had painted, and was not even the most famous painting in the Louvre, but then it was stolen,” he said.

“This artwork will always contain within it the story of raising funds for people in remote communities to get dialysis.”

After a low-key handing back ceremony, Mount Hermannsburg has now been returned to Araluen Arts Centre where it will be kept in collection on a long-term loan.

The work is expected to be back on the walls of the Araluen Cultural Precinct in January.

Five board members of the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation stand with the Albert Namatjira painting on an easel.