13/12/2016 10:07 AM AEDT | Updated 13/12/2016 10:35 AM AEDT

Missing $150,000 Aboriginal Artwork Found In Government Store Room

The man who found it was after something bright for the wall.

Detail of Untitled (Travelling Dreaming) by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri.
Detail of Untitled (Travelling Dreaming) by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri.

A prized Aboriginal artwork that was lost by the Northern Territory Chief Minister's office in 1981 has been found in a store room.

Fittingly, the Papunya Board, painted by Aboriginal artist Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, tells a story of journeys and travelling sequences.

Department of Tourism and Culture chief executive Alastair Shields said he found it in an old store room, completely unaware he was handling a work by one of the founders of the Papunya art movement.

"The office needed a little bit of life and colour, however, I had no idea that I was hanging a prized piece of Northern Territory art," Mr Shields said.

Untitled (Travelling Dreaming) by Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri.

"I was shocked to learn it was a one-of-a-kind Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri painting that had been missing for 35 years, last seen in the Chief Minister's Office in 1981."

The work has an estimated value of $100,000–$150,000 and will now be displayed at The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in time for the exhibition Tjungungutja: Early Papunya Paintings opening in July 2017.

What is the work about?

The Papunya Board shows radiating lines which indicate a journey and the circular forms are sit-down places. The bottom two Ceremonial Men are singing a bush tucker song and the top two figures are not singing at all. The curved linear pattern represents bush tucker, and the key features are roundels for campfires in a travelling sequence.