The single owner sale of art is held in high esteem, as these collections are often built through a life-long passion and association with art and the artists. A collector might choose to sell their unique group of treasures during their lifetime, or what is more often the case, the collection is sold as works from an estate by the family after their passing.
The sale of an ex-dealer or current art dealer’s art collection also generates significant interest, as we can rightly assume that artworks that a dealer is selling in the auction room are quality artworks from a dealer-collector who has an eye for the best.
Commercial art galleries do not necessarily see eye to eye with auction houses on values, as in retail gallery prices versus auction estimates, however there are occasions of harmony.
Bonhams selling the “Sherman 100” is a prime example of a collaboration between highly respected retired art dealer Dr. Gene Sherman and the auction house in Sydney on 11 May 2022.
This is not the first sale of works from the Gene and Brian Sherman collection: between 2015 and 2020, Deutscher + Hackett offered 53 works in five “Capsule Collections” instalments in their mixed vendor fine art sales.
These commercial gallery / auction house collaborations have mostly proved successful events, for example Bill Nuttall and Annette Reeves of Niagara Galleries who sold a large number of artworks from their superannuation fund in 2012 with Bonhams, raising close to $950,000 including buyer’s premium. In 2020, a further quarter of a million dollars of selected works from the collection of Bill Nuttall and Annette Reeves were sold, also by Bonhams.
The year 2016 saw two auctions of legendary Sydney art dealer’s Denis Savill’s artworks. In May of that year, Sotheby’s sold 120 works from the “Denis Savill Collection of Art” raising $5.3 million IBP, and in September, Menzies sold “The Stock in Trade of Savill Galleries” of 161 works for $1 million IBP.
In March 2017, Deutscher + Hackett sold 74 works for Robert Gould of Gould Galleries from his own collection in a stand-alone auction, achieving almost $8 million IBP.
The “Sherman 100” offered opportunities for new and established art collectors alike, as many lots were estimated very favourably; a policy that Bonhams have used in recent years successfully when offering respected artists who however have not had much exposure and therefore recognition in the auction room.
Internationally, auction sales of contemporary art are sought out by the biggest collectors. In Australia, stand-alone auction sales of contemporary art have often been fickle, however Leonard Joel’s now regular “Centum” sale and Bonhams have been making inroads to attract collectors to “new” artists at auction.
A case in point was Angela and Hossein Valamanesh’s Forest of Words 2, 2003 (Lot 1002). Estimated at $6,000-9,000, the 30 x 242 cm bronze sculpture grew to a pleasing $17,000, Setting a new auction record for the artists by a long way.
[To avoid duplication of lot numbers with Bonhams mixed vendor sale on the same night, on the AASD site the 100 works from the Sherman Collection have been renumbered by adding 1,000, so lot 1 of the Sherman sale is lot 1001 on AASD.]
Shaun Gladwell was represented by a large and varied number of works, 7 in total. The star lot was a digital video titled Quay MDCCCVIII-MCMLXXXVIII Sequence, 2005 (Lot 1014), from an edition of 4 and priced at just $2,000-4,000, which soared to $19,500.
Given Sherman Galleries’ long association with Tim Storrier, unsurprisingly there were three paintings up for grabs at Bonhams. The most valuable was The Carcass, 1993 (Lot 1016), and with hopes of $80,000-120,000, it sold just below the low estimates at $75,000. This was also the highest price achieved in the sale, with Storrier’s The Rose Crossing, 1998 (Lot 1042) also selling below its low estimate of $50,000 for $40,000.
Ah Xian ‘s porcelain busts are very rare to market, and have achieved as much as $150,000 hammer, so the $70,000-100,000 estimate placed on China China (Bust 13), 1999 (Lot 1017 ) seemed reasonable. It didn’t quite meet the low estimate but did sell at $60,000.
Danie Mellor’s interestingly titled On a non correolationist thought XIV, 2016 (Lot 1021) elicited considerable interest. Estimated at $2,000-4,000, it sold for more than double its high estimate for $8,500.
The auction room seems to be finally embracing the work of performance artist and printmaker Mike Parr. Leonard Joel’s Centum sale in June 2021 achieved $26,000 for Quotation / Quotation (A Screw Loose), 2001, setting a new auction record for this well established and highly regarded artist. This record was surpassed in November 2021 with Shapiro’s sale of Self Portrait, 2007, for $27,000.
Last night, Bonhams sold Smear Instonata, 1983 (Lot 1034), a very large charcoal on paper work for a healthy $20,000 on $8,000-12,000 expectations, and then achieved a new auction record of $38,000 for the bronze sculpture Various Non-Entities, “Hatred in the Sky”, 1997 (Lot 1035). Both works went to the same buyer.
Ai Weiwei’s Untitled (refugee plate), 2018, edition 5/10 (Lot 1043A) was looking interesting at $50,000-70,000, but apparently sold prior to auction via private treaty according to auctioneer Merryn Schriever, with no price disclosed.
A by now very relaxed auctioneer was happy to joke with the potential buyer of Arthur Boyd’s Mars Series (Angel), 1988 (Lot 1099), a glazed earthenware plate with estimates of $1,500-2,500: apparently, the phone bidder was waiting for a plane, with Schriever egging him on with comments “in international departures and “in the Chairman’s lounge”. Maybe his flight was called, as he missed out to one of those pesky online bidders who happily paid $8,500 – a reminder perhaps of Bonhams’ extremely successful auction of a large number of artists’ plates from the Lucio’s restaurant sale in March 2021.
Bonhams started the second part of the evening sale dedicated to properties from various vendors with three pleasing prints by Brett Whiteley. Lots 1, 2 and 3 all sold, and perhaps not surprisingly, the rarest of the three selling best: Girl Warming and Reading, 1981 (Lot 3) is a linocut from an edition of just 10, which sold for $14,500.
Discovered by Bonhams’ art specialist Alex Clark in the UK, Brett Whiteley’s Untitled, 1960-61 (Lot 4) was an interesting group of six important early abstract works on paper in various media.
These unknown works will be added to Kathie Sutherland’s voluminous catalogue raisonné, and found a new home for $30,000 on conservative estimates of $12,000-18,000.
Whilst not as fully flavoured as she has been, Clarice Beckett’s Figure and Bathing Boxes, c1932 (Lot 8), did sell exactly at its low estimate of $40,000.
Meanwhile, Jeffery Smart’s dark, mysterious and appealing early The Lovers, 1957 (Lot 10) was strongly bid with its $25,000-35,000 expectations, selling eventually for $60,000.
Buyers were enjoying typical and colourful paintings by old auction room favourites: John Coburn’s Rajastan, 1987 (Lot 11) sold for $46,000 on hopes of $40,000-60,000, John Perceval’s Double Sunset, 1972 (Lot 13) sold for its low estimate of $50,000, and Ray Crooke’s Fijian Blue Cloth, 1984 (Lot 14) sold mid-range at $25,000, estimated at $18,000-30,000.
We are seeing continued excellent results for Australia’s “greatest living artist” John Olsen. The three paintings offered all sold last night, with cover lot Lily Pond at Humpty-Doo, 2004 (Lot 38) selling at its low-end estimate of $300,000.
Mother and Armour, 1979 (Lot 37) by that other auction stalwart Sidney Nolan failed to attract a bid on $50,000-70,000 expectations.
Bonhams are always strong on offerings of Aboriginal art, and last evening was no different, with a consistent mix of well-known Aboriginal painters including Lin Onus and Emily Kngwarreye. Whilst the portrait of the artist’s son titled Wamut and Warru, 1989 (Lot 21) on $80,000-120,000 failed to sell on the night, there was substantial interest for a more typical and much smaller gouache landscape (Lot 50) which had $8,000-12,000 hopes. It sold for more than twice the high estimate for $28,000.
Two very appealing Delmore provenanced paintings by Emily Kngwarreye were very well received: Untitled, 1990 (Lot 22) on modest $10,000-15,000 estimates sold for almost twice the high hope for $28,000, meanwhile the major 130 x 225 cm Nterkwe – Emu Tucker II, 1991 (Lot 26) from a Swiss collection sold for $170,000, $20,000 above the high estimate.
Surely one of David Boyd’s largest paintings, an early work Monoliths, 1962 (Lot 40), measuring 279 x 169.5 cm, caused some anguish peppered with humour for Merryn Schriever, when an online bid of $40,500 came in, which the auctioneer “didn’t think was possible”. Nonetheless, it was accepted and two more bids of $500 secured the work for $41,500.
An early painting on board by Old Walter Tjampitjinpa from 1972 (Lot 48) achieved a very respectable mid-estimate result of $60,000.
The proceeds from Joseph Ostoja-Kotkowski’s Iris, 1965 (Lot 60), est. $2,500-4,500, were destined for the Art Gallery of NSW Foundation, which will receive a nice surprise indeed: it sold for almost four times the high estimate at $16,000.
Even more pleasantly surprised should be the vendor of Leonard French’s Abstract, 1963 (Lot 62): this small oil on board smashed its high estimate of $1,200 by almost 13 times to sell for $16,000 as well.
Portraits from early colonial Australia continue to be highly sought: in August last year, Bonhams sold two very small watercolours by Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (1794 – 1847) of his patron Robert Kennedy Nuttall, discovered in the UK, very successfully for $100,000 and $30,000 respectively.
Last night’s equally diminutive work on paper of Robert Kennedy Nuttall (Lot 75), measuring 19 x 15 cm was consigned from Florida and sold equally successful, for $70,000 on hopes of $70,000-100,000.