The Deutscher + Hackett sale strategy of letting the Easter and Anzac Holiday fall between viewings in Sydney and Melbourne appears to have paid off handsomely: On Wednesday night, the auction room was packed with dealers, consultants and collectors refreshed and ready to spend in their second major sale of the year. The results confirmed the impression: the auction house sold 76% by volume and 87% by value, generating $4,330,140 incl. buyer’s premium.
Two very small paintings from the late 1930s occupied the first two lots of the sale. William Dobell’s Boy Bathing, 1939 (lot 1), dutifully delivered on expectations and achieved a $38,000 hammer price on estimates of $25,000-$35,000.
Rah Fizelle’s Three Nudes c1938 (lot 2), an extremely rare modernist painting, sold for the same hammer price of $38,000, estimated at $40,000-$60,000, followed by two much admired paintings from the 1950s by Grace Cossington Smith and John Brack. Yellow Drapes, 1954 (lot 3), had the unusually wide estimate of $100,000-$200,000. It paid off, selling over the top end for a very healthy $220,000 h.p. Likewise, John Brack’s Pears, 1957 (lot 4), a wonderfully sublime image, jumped past its $90,000-$120,000 estimate, selling at $135,000 h.p.
Back to the 1930s, another pair of very appealing works sold well: Ian Fairweather’s Soochow – Two Bridges, 1933 (lot 6) fetched a h.p. of $60,000, exactly the middle of its estimates of $50,000-$70,000, while Fitzroy Children, 1937 (lot 8) by Danila Vassilieff attracted considerable interest, selling for $48,000 h.p, $3,000 over its high estimate of $45,000.
Fred Williams’ Fallen Tree, 1966 (lot 10), a round-shaped landscape, was perhaps always going to be a difficult sale, so even with the attractive $100,000-$140,000 estimate, it failed to find a buyer.
A monumental Arthur Boyd landscape, Waterfall on the Banks of the Shoalhaven River (lot 11), including a waterfall and a big white cockatoo to help its appeal, faced no such problems. Businessman Barry Pang bought the showpiece mid-range at $68,000 h.p. on $60,000-$80,000 estimates.
Not just one, but two outstanding Jeffrey Smarts were on offer next: the fabulous cover lot On the Cassia, 1965 (lot 12), overshot its $220,000-$280,000 estimates to $350,000 h.p. while The Large Tanker, 1984 (lot 13), underbid by Mr Pang at the low estimate of $150,000, went to a phone bidder for $160,000 h.p.
The back cover was occupied by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama: Heart (Aowhton), 2007 (lot 43), sold for the second highest price of the night, $320,000 h.p., a good international result for the auctioneer.
Melbourne art dealer Charles Nodrum secured John Olsen’s deliciously colourful Sydney Nights, 1965 (lot 14), for $50,000 h.p. at its mid-range estimate. Meanwhile Brett Whiteley’s Sydney Winter, 1980 (lot 15), perhaps too cold or too sublime, failed to sell on its $160,000-$200,000 estimate.
The countryside fared better: William Robinson’s humorous cow and various assorted animals in Farmyard, 1982 (lot 17) happily found a new owner at $220,000, 10% above the low estimate. John Kelly’s decidedly more cubist cow, Half painted cow on trestles, 1994 (lot 18), also met with success, selling just below the high estimate at $55,000 h.p.
An interesting mix of modern and contemporary sculptures mostly did well. Clement Meadmore’s very early Untitled (Wall Sculpture) c1956 (lot 22) sold very nicely above its high estimate of $30,000, going for $34,000 h.p., and although two other lots by the artist, lot 59 and 60, more typical but small works from 1984 and 2000, failed to find buyers, Warm Valley, 1994 (lot 61) a most luscious, long and twisty work, sold for $28,000, obliterating it’s $16,000-$20,000 estimates.
Cover up # 1, 2012 (lot 37) by Callum Morton – you decide whether it’s a painting or a sculpture – sold just below low estimate at $22,000 h.p., while Hany Armanious’ Sphinx, 2009 (lot 38), was too enigmatic for most, passing in on estimates of $30,000-$40,000.
Although Radial, 2005 (lot 39) by Patricia Piccinini failed to find a bidder on the night, Deutscher + Hackett’s ‘tireless’ efforts next day secured a sale at a respectable $20,000 h.p. The other Piccinini, titled Stem Cell, 2003 (lot 114), sold on the night for $4,500.
James Angus’ Fly’s Eye Conic Extrusion, 2008 (lot 40) managed to sell at $14,000 h.p, just below the low estimate of $15,000. And proving that Australian art collectors mostly have a sense of humour, The Stockroom Trap, 2005 (lot 41) by Alex Seton, sold comfortably over the top estimate for $28,000 h.p.
Hopefully, Deutscher + Hackett will keep adding more contemporary sculpture in the mix of traditional and modern offerings, as well as photography, which was well received on the night. Two large-scale Bill Henson works, Untitled, 1990-91 (from the Paris Opera Project) (lot 35) and Untitled, 1999/2000 (lot 36), sold for $23,000 h.p. mid-estimate and $17,000 h.p. respectively, while Petrina Hicks’ haunting Lauren in Red, 2003 (lot 113) sold at the top range estimate of $6,500 h.p. Following up at the tail end of the sale were two classics by Max Dupain: Jean with Wire Mesh, 1937 (lot 132), sold for $6,000 h.p, and the much later Magnolia at Night, 1982 (lot 133) bloomed for $3,800 h.p.
Emily Kngwarreye’s A Carpeted Desert, 1990 (lot 45) revealed the ongoing decline in Aboriginal art values at auction even for its stars. The large colourful canvas sold for a hammer price of just $60,000, after its last recorded sale with Christies in October 2004 of $90,000 hammer price, a total of $107,550 IBP.
Surprisingly for Norman Lindsay watercolours, lots 51, 52, 82 and 83 all failed to sell on the night, while Diana (lot 81), a Lindsay sculpture, hunted down a buyer the day after for $13,000 h.p.
The much admired Van Gogh after John Russell, 2004 (lot 64) by Ben Quilty attracted strong bidding as the conservative estimate of $12,000-$16,000 stirred significant interest, eventually selling for a healthy $27,000 h.p.
Hugh Ramsay’s Man with Staff, c1894-1900 (lot 77) returned a surprising but no doubt very pleasing result for the seller: competitive bidding saw the accomplished, though very ‘art school’ looking painting, soar to $52,000 h.p., $17,000 over the high estimate.
Article originally published in Australian Art Sales Digest