Wham Bam Thank you Schramm

Sotheby’s would have to be very pleased with Tuesday night’s sale: it totalled $8,093,400 incl. buyer’s premium, with 70% sold by lot and 63% sold by volume. The turn-out was comfortably large at the Double Bay premises which are used by Bay East, yet soon to be vacated. Numerous members of the trade attended, and success was assured by the sale of many large ticket works and some good prices achieved from works of less value, which overshot reserves.

Schramm Auctioneer Martin Gallon’s relaxed yet lively manner again proved an asset for Sotheby’s. Denis Savill’s presence was clearly acknowledged and appreciated by the auctioneer who thanked him for underbidding several of the early lots; they included Margaret Olley (lot 1), which sold just below the high estimate at $48,000, the Brett Whiteley vase (lot 3), selling well at $50,400 on an $30,000-40,000 estimate, John Perceval’s ‘Ship’s Graveyard’ (lot 6) which

Lot 11, Alexander Schramm, Native Encampment,

South Australia, sold for $588,000.

sold below the low estimate at $220,000 hammer price or $264,000 incl. b.p., Penleigh Boyd’s ‘Manly 1922’ (lot 10) which sold well at $40,800 on estimates of $20,000-$30,000.

Mr Savill was successful at least in the purchase of his stock-in-trade, Arthur Boyd’s ‘Shoalhaven Landscape’ (lot 2), selling just below the high estimate at $57,600 on estimates of $50,000-60,000.

As Australian Financial Review veteran Terry Ingram would corroborate, there was the predictable amount of phone bidding, making it impossible to know who had purchased many of the paintings. Phone bidder numbers simply revealed that the same bidder purchased both the Alexander Schramm (lot 11) and Frederick McCubbin’ ‘Whispering in Wattle Boughs’ (lot 12), the much-admired star of the evening, for a total of $ 1.788 million incl. b.p.

A number of bidders bought two and more lots each in the sale, with phone bidder 819 purchasing six works: Arthur Streeton’s ‘Everetts Old Mill’ (lot 18), the Tim Storrier (lot 42), Sidney Nolan’s ‘Antarctica’ (lot 60), ‘Peasant Woman’ by Rupert Bunny (lot 63), William Charles Piguenit (lot 66) and ‘Harmony in Blue, Williamstown’ by Frederick McCubbin (lot 70), for a total of $312,000 incl. b.p.

The five sales most pleasing for Sotheby’s are of course the Alexander Schramm (lot 11) which sold for a very healthy $$588,000, the McCubbin (lot 12) for $1.2 million, ‘Dry Creek Bed, Alice Springs’ by Arthur Boyd (lot 20) selling also for $1.2 million, and another work by Boyd, ‘Lovers by a Creek’ (lot 32), selling for $960,000, and last but not least Charles Blackman’s ‘There Was, 1953’ (lot 36) which achieved $840,000.

Together, these five make up more than 50% of the evening’s total with $4.788 million, while representing under 10% of the 56 paintings sold on the night.

A few battles were waged: Dale Frank’s works (lot 4) are generally highly contested in the auction room, and this very large 180 x 180 cm canvas was no exception. Merryn Schriever, arts specialist from Deutscher + Hackett, underbid this work, which finally went for $45,600 on estimates of $18,000-22,000.

Arthur Streeton’s ‘Winter Landscape’ (lot 15) always looked undervalued at $30,000-40,000, and sold for a healthy $56,400 for this charming early work.

After a few unsuccessful attempts on other works, art dealer Bob Lavigne was successful with his purchase of Jeffrey Smart’s ‘Study for Head Office, 2002’ (lot 23), paying $62,400. Perhaps sitting next to Denis Savill helped…

Donald Friend’s early work ‘Abstraction, 1943’ (lot 27) comfortably beat its $15,000-20,000 estimate, selling for $33,600, as did Arthur Boyd’s ‘Shoalhaven Riverbend with Blue Heron’ (lot 29), fetching $78,000 on the $50,000-60,000 estimate.

As expected, ‘Hunter 1967’ by Albert Tucker destroyed the $10,000-15,000 estimate, to sell for $31,200.

However, some high-priced works failed to sell, including Russell Drysdale’s ‘Boy on a log’, estimated at $400,000-600,00 (lot 9), Albert Tucker’s ‘Explorers’ with estimates of $500,000-700,000 (lot 28) and two big works by Fred Williams (lot 24, lot 46) with estimates of $300,000-400,000 and $750,000-850,000.

Some of the most spirited bidding was saved for the end of the auction, with two lots by Ethel Spowers (lot 74, lot 75) and Sybil Andrews (lot 76) far exceeding their conservative estimates, which was hardly surprising after worldwide interest has spiked after Bonham’s London sale of the Grosvenor School Printmakers secured a record $174,600 for a print by Ethel Spowers.

All three lots were estimated at $8,000-12,000, respectively selling all way above at $32,400, $26,400 and $72,000 incl b.p., and all going to phone bidders, presumably from overseas.

Article originally published in the Australian Art Sales Digest

Written by

Brigitte Banziger

Hello, my name is Brigitte Banziger and I am an art consultant and manager at Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, Australia's art valuation and art advice experts. We offer comprehensive art valuation and art brokerage services (selling and buying art on behalf of clients). Our art services cover everything from valuations, art care and restoration, to general advice such as helping define the goals for your art purchase and work out the best strategy on how to achieve those goals, including where, how and and when to buy.

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