He was an artist of such promise that he was eventually selected to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1999. He died the same year, aged 22, the cause attributed to a heroin overdose.
In his short career he made inbounds. He was widely tipped to become a major Australian artist, and although he never lived to expand on and build his repertoire he remains a significant figure in Australian art. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) even hosted a retrospective of his works in 2006.
His work has gotten some attention in recent days, not because it is being reassessed, but because one of his works in particular is to be acquired by the gallery.
The gallery has had a similar work to the one in the image above, on loan to it from its owner, gallerist Rob Gould, a friend of Arkley's, who is now prepared to sell the work to the gallery at a non market rate. This presumably is motivated in part by the idea of keeping Arkley's legacy and legitimacy as an artist alive for future generations.
The undisclosed amount that needs to be secured is being collected by the NGV's fund raising arm. What has got some of the press all stirred up is the fact that the NGV in recent days has embarked on a kind of direct email crowd funding campaign with its sponsors and donors.
Arkley's work recorded a record sale amount last year, so the logic behind the NGV buying a work that it already has "in reserve" (and in its storage collection) to at a presumably reduced price is strong. Donors and sponsors like clear goals, and clearly the NGV believes it is capable of securing the work from their donations. And ongoing, one would think that this process will continue to be used by galleries: it's not in their best interests to overuse the system, but it will appeal to donors who will like the idea of somehow contributing to the kinds of works that enter the public collections.