An iconic image by Gert Sellheim achieved a new world record price at auction at Swann Galleries, New York, on 11 November. On estimates of U$3,000 – 4,000, ‘Australia – Surf Club’ from 1936 soared to US $24,000 (incl. b.p.)
According to Nicho Lowry, president of Swann Galleries, bidding for this superb Art Deco poster was fierce with several phone bidders battling it out. The US prevailed with the poster going to an American art deco collector, while an Australian was the underbidder.
The condition certainly helped the record, as did the poster’s rarity. It was classified as B+ / A- which clearly stirred interest.
The previous record for an Australian travel poster was held by a poster featuring Bondi Beach from 1929 by Percy Trompf (1902- 64), selling for US $12,000 incl. b.p. – also set by Swann Galleries in November 2008.
Nicho Lowry points out that Australia has produced some of the best travel poster designers, namely Percy Trompf, James Northfield, Eileen Mayo and Gert Sellheim.
Sellheim is a name not many would be familiar with. As George Rayner Hoff is famous for designing the Holden logo, so Sellheim should be recognised for creating that other Australian iconic logo, the Flying Kangaroo for Qantas.
Born in 1901 in Estonia of German parents, Sellheim migrated to Australia in 1926, He worked from the 1930s as an industrial and commercial designer, and produced posters mainly for the Australian National Travel Association. In 1939, he won the Sulman prize for his decoration of the building of the Victorian Government Tourist Bureau.
Sellheim was one of the first to draw inspiration from Aboriginal imagery; in 1948, his two-shilling stamp celebrating Aboriginal art won a stamp-design competition.
Article originally published in the Australian Art Sales Digest