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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Aboriginal artwork in record sale
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A Sotheby's employee (L) walks past a painting by Aboriginal artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri titled Warlugulong 1977, in Sydney, 12 July 2007.
The artwork was once displayed in a bank
A painting that hung for several years in a bank has set a new record price for Australian aboriginal artwork.

The piece, by renowned indigenous artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, was sold for more than US$2m (970,000) at an auction in Melbourne.

The sale more than doubled the previous record for Aborigine art.

The work, depicting the artist's view of creation, is seen as a masterpiece and one of the most profound examples of indigenous art ever produced.

It contains several stories about Aboriginal lands near Alice Springs in Australia's rugged Northern Territory.

Part of the picture shows a bushfire that was started by a tribal ancestor - a blue-tongue lizard - who was angry with his sons.

The fire is represented by the shape of a red sun in the centre of the work.

Aboriginal superstar

This iconic piece - called Warlugulong - was sold at a packed auction in Melbourne.

It was bought by Australia's National Gallery in Canberra. Experts believe it will be some time before this record-breaking price is surpassed.

The picture, though, has not always been valued so highly.

It was originally sold for US$1,000 and ended up being displayed on a cafeteria wall at a training centre owned by a bank.

The large-scale canvas was completed 30 years ago by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. He went on to become one of the superstars of Aboriginal art.

He died in 2002 and spent most of his life in an isolated corner of central Australia. He was a master of the Western Desert style of painting, using thousands of tiny dots to create traditional images.

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri helped to create a multi-million dollar indigenous art industry. It employs about 6,000 people in dozens of remote communities.

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