writes Michaela Boland in The Australian on 12 June 2017.
Elton John’s Emily Kame Kngwarreye landscape sold at auction for almost half a million dollars last week, ten times what the piano man bought it for two decades ago and double what Bonhams auction house expected as the bluechip art market continues its bull run.
John and his husband David Furnish have been rationalising their immense art collection in recent years, Kngwarreye’s 1993 My Country landscape was the first of their Australian artworks offered to the market.
Competitive bidding by phone, online and in Bonhams’ Sydney saleroom took the 3.7-metre-wide painting well past its $150,000-$250,000 estimate, with a bidder in the room finally securing the work for $414,800, including the 22 per cent buyer’s premium.
In 1997 John spent $46,000 at Sotheby’s in Melbourne acquiring the vast landscape by the doyenne of Northern Territory artists.
In 2008 he loaned it to a major retrospective exhibition, Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye, which toured to Japan before showing at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
The eclectic catalogue of 68 artworks sold for well above their $1.2 to $2.2 million dollar expectations carried by four pictures which sold for well above expectations.
Dealer David Hulme, bidding on behalf of clients, was the disappointed underbidder on several of those works but triumphed after a fierce competition for Roy de Maistre’s blue still life Magnolia oil on linen from 1928.
Hulme described the work as one of the finest modern pictures to come on this market this year. The new owner will pay $549,000 from a reserve of $80,000.
Art consultant Elisabeth Hastings, who catalogued the art collection of Aussie Homeloans founder John Symond, bought Brett Whiteley’s yellow Hummingbird and Frangipani board for $720,000 off a low estimate of $280,000.
Sidney Nolan’s pastel 1966 New Kelly landscape went for $524,000 from an estimate of $120,000.
Hulme said: “We’re seeing 2007 again. People have been competing far beyond the estimates.”