Join the Hunt – The Search for Australian Art in British Auctions

A strong Aussie dollar means hunting and bidding for Australian art at auction overseas has never been more alluring.

The internet is constantly providing new tools to enable anyone to track down the specific art that they are looking for – not just in domestic art markets, but also overseas.

Most reputable fine art auction houses have quite sophisticated and easy to scroll and view websites to search through the art available for any given sale. You can of course go to the individual websites of auctioneers – if you know who and where they are.

However, a good starting point for the UK is the British which features information on over 75 fine art auctioneers and their sale dates. There you can view catalogues and then either bid online live or over the phone. If you don’t want to trawl the site yourself, will, for a fee, find the lots you are interested in by searching the catalogues and email you the details.

Not surprisingly, most Australian art that appears at auction overseas does so in Britain, with New Zealand and the US vying for second place.

I went on my own little hunt for Australian works due to come up for sale soon and found two by Sidney Nolan, one by Ray Crooke, two by John Wolseley and two by Percy Spence.

The excellent Ned Kelly silk screens “Landscape” (with Ned and rifle) and “Township” (with Ned on horseback), both from an edition of 75, are listed as lots 110 and 111, with estimates of £ 2,000 to £ 3,000 at Bloomsbury Auctions on 3rd March in London.

Two early works from John Wolseley have provenance from the Mayor Gallery in London and are up for auction at Dreweatts Donnington Priory Salerooms on 23rd February. Lot 62, a gouache and pencil work has an estimate of £ 200 to £ 300, whilst lot 63, an oil on board, is estimated at £ 400 to £ 600. Lot 92 in the same sale is a North Queensland scene by Ray Crooke, titled ‘Dry Landscape’, oil on board, with an estimate of £ 1,500 to £ 2,500.

Taking a trip across the Atlantic to New York, Swann Auction Galleries are offering on 8th February two posters created by Percy Spence. These were both produced for the Great Western Railway in 1928 and advertise “The Cornish Riviera” and “Glorious Devon”, both with estimates of $ 700 to $ 1,000.

Of course, when placing a bid, you also need to remember that the shipping costs will be added – getting a quote beforehand is a good idea. Then there is the buyer’s premium to be taken into account, as well as possible GST implications on the work coming into Australia.

All in all, with the Aussie dollar moving 15 to 20 % higher in value against the British pound in recent times there has never been a better time to join the hunt.

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