Determinants of sales and price at auction for three Australian Indigenous artists: to pool or not to pool?

Short Paper


Albert Namatjira (1902–1959), Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c1910–1996) and Rover (Julama) Thomas (c1926–1998) are three of Australia’s best-known Indigenous artists. Each is known for one style of painting—Namatjira for watercolor on paper, Kngwarreye for acrylic (synthetic polymer) on canvas and Thomas for natural earth pigments on canvas. We estimate a sample selectivity model using data from the Australian Art Sales Digest to study the determinants of sales and the hammer price of artworks offered at auction from these artists. The results show that pre-sale information on the artwork and auction effects are significant and that the three artists studied are very different from each other. Thus, data should not be pooled when estimating these models.


Pooled data Selectivity correction Auction prices Indigenous artwork 

JEL Classification

Z11 D440 



We wish to acknowledge Bronwyn Coate for helpful discussions on the context of Indigenous art in Australia. We are grateful to seminar participants at RMIT University and Monash University for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Finally, we would like to thank the Australian Art Sales Digest for supplying the data used in this paper and note that responsibility for the information and views set out in this paper lies entirely with the authors.


This work is part of a research project on “Indigenous art at auction” which has been supported by an RMIT University internal research grant awarded to Tim R.L. Fry.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics, Finance and MarketingRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Health EconomicsMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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