It’s been a while since I have had a good rant about a fine art auction sale. Maybe I have been asleep, too busy or just plain uninspired by the offerings. Well, here is my chance to redeem myself of whatever the reason was.
Chris Deutscher and Damian Hackett are now – for me at least – the arbiters of the best fine art auctions in Australia.
Their Melbourne sale of 29th April gives us 215 lots, and from just viewing the online catalogue at this stage, there are indeed some rare treats in store.
The first lot is going to do very well. We own three works by Ben Quilty and would dearly love to add this one to our collection. Unfortunately, at $ 25,000 to $ 35,000 it’s out of our league. However, at 150 x 150 cm a major work like this deserves to do top of the estimate and beyond. The title? ‘Australian Landscape # 2 – Colt 2005’.
Other contemporary artists also making appearances at auction are eX de Medici lot number 3, Michael Zavros lot number 6, and Elizabeth Kruger at lot number 7, a large oil on linen, 90.5 x 152 cm at an estimate of $ 10,000 to $ 15,000.
The sale of a significant work by Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo is of particular interest to us a Banziger Hulme. Brigitte has been involved in the establishment of a website on Dattilo-Rubbo for the Manly Art Gallery & Museum presenting the life and work of this great art mentor. It is lot number 16 in this sale ‘Poverty makes strange bedfellows’ 1905, and kicks off a number of social realist paintings from the private collection of Ian Hick.
There are some real gems here, no doubt. Lot number 17 is an early Jeffrey Smart from 1945 revealing clearly the roots of his later practice. The next three lots are just as stunning: Lot number 18 Edmund Harvey’s ‘Sinn Fein’ is a most interesting work, and had it been painted by a more well-known Australian or perhaps a British artist, we would be looking at an estimate considerably more than it’s $ 12,000 to $ 18,000.
The next two works are equally interesting: Herbert Badham’s ‘The Night Bus’, 1933, estimate $ 25,000 to $ 35,000; Weaver Hawkins’ ‘Technicolor’, 1944, estimate $ 20,000 to $ 30,000. The social realist pictures continue and while some are bit too dark and dreary for me, I find lot number 54 a lot of fun ‘A wild party’ by Hal Missingham fro 1949, estimate $ 10,000 – $ 15,000.
A number of these artists are largely forgotten in today’s art market. One of them is Harold Greenhill, represented here with lot number 55, ‘The waiting shed, Manly Wharf’, 1944, and many of these works have quite low estimates accordingly. To mention our favourite regional art gallery again: Manly Art Gallery & Museum have a number of excellent works by this artist in their permanent collection, some Manly-focussed. I am sure that if some kind benefactor would like to buy this work and donate it to Manly Art Gallery & Museum, they would be only too happy to accept.
I was very interested to see a watercolour by George Augustus Robinson, lot number 63, a very interesting historical work, titled ‘Hobart Town’, from 1840, also for personal reasons: am currently reading a most interesting book by James Boyce on the foundation of Van Diemen’s Land, and also notice that the Robinson painting had once been in the collection of the late Ted Gregg, a good friend and avid collector of all art to do with his birthplace.
There is another rather pretty picture of Tasmania, lot number 67, by William Piguenit, of the River Derwent, with estimates of $ 18,000 to $ 24,000.
On another note: there are a good number of early works in the sale, and I am looking forward to viewing them in the flesh. Often I view a work online or in the catalogue and then get a completely different impression of the work up close. Garry Shead’s ‘The Visitation’ is lot 87 of the sale, and was last seen at auction in 2003, when it sold for $ 99,875 including buyer’s premium. Now with an estimate of $ 70,000 to $ 100,000 it’s looking like a bargain. We shall see.
Please note: lot 92 is another historically interesting work, by William Westall, ‘Australian Natives Attacking Explorers During Flinder’s Circumnavigation of Australia’, 1808 – 09. This would have to be a museum piece, the estimate is $ 40,000 to $ 60,000.
Lot 95 is a whole lot of fun and the best and most raucous Norman Lindsay in a while, titled ‘Ladies for Ransom’. This is the Lindsay I really want to see. I am sure I can see Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in there, too!
At the lower end of the scale pricewise, we cannot ignore lots 125 and 126 by Albert Fullwood: lot 125 ‘Westminster Abbey’, 1909 looks like an absolute cracker of a picture, estimate $ 8,000 to $ 12,000, and deserves to do extremely well.
Lot 155, ‘Vertical Moonbi Figure’, 1991, by Euan McLeod is a large gouache on paper, 77 x 62 cm, and with an estimate of $ 2,500 to $ 3,500 is looking like very good value.
Also two attractive watercolours by Rick Amor, lots 156 and 157, seem like good buys.
Finally, lot 172, by an artist who is more known for his horses: Harold Septimus Power. This image is full of colour and a very pretty picture: ‘Figures on the beach, Sorrento’, 1948, estimate $ 5,000 to $ 7,000.