Mackley family collection an auction marvel
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 6th September, 2023
Through their eclectic personalities, Evan Mackley (1940-2019) and his son Simon made significant impacts as artists, restauranteurs, collectors of antiques and overall entrepreneurs.
From High Street, Armadale to Ringwood in Melbourne and throughout country Victoria, they were well-known and appreciated for their passion in these pursuits – with Evan’s wife Barbara a driving managerial force and connection.
Following Simon’s recent untimely death, the Mackley family collection will be auctioned online on Sunday September 17 by Melbourne auctioneer Phil Caldwell and Adelaide-based Elder Fine Art.
Phil has described the 300-odd items in the sale as “magical”, many not found anywhere else in Australia, and a unique opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts – as these works were often the result of a love of collecting, rather than simply being acquired for ongoing sale.
“The collection of Australian art is diverse and interesting, along with an important selection of unique sculptures by Dutch artist Gabriel Sterk, famous for his horse depictions, Melbourne artist William Ricketts (1898-1993), and Guy Boyd (1923-1988),” he said.
One of Sterk’s more famous works in the Mackley collection and purchased in the 1980s is entitled Rolling Horse – a massive bronze sculpture 2.4 metres long, 2.2 metres high and 1.5 metres wide (lot 43).
Evan purchased the sculpture after seeing it included in a photographic exhibition by noted Australian film producer Scott Hicks, held at South Australia’s BMG Art Gallery and entitled Stolen Moments.
Sterk happened to be moving his studio when Hicks was driving through the Adelaide hills, saw the horse suspended by crane in mid-air on its way to the new location, and promptly photographed it.
Another of Sterk’s works Evan Mackley bought about the same time is a large sculptured bronze figured group of a mythical maiden riding a turkey (lot 46) – along with two life-size bronze foal sculptures (lots 44 and 45).
Born in 1942, Sterk arrived in 1958 in Australia. In 1985, he moved to France and has since rocketed to international fame.
Two of Ricketts works in the auction are significant. One is a monumental two-piece wall sculpture featuring a reclining bearded indigenous tribal elder, eight indigenous children’s heads and a rare full-length self-portrait of the sculptor (lot 14) with a catalogue estimate of $12,000-$24,000.
Another is a large wall sculpture with 16 indigenous heads (lot 15) – estimate $15,000-$30,000.
Three more Ricketts sculptures (lots 16-18) are in the form of pottery plaques featuring Central Australia Pitjantjatjara and Aranda people, with whom the artist worked and lived amongst for various periods before returning to his Mount Dandenong sanctuary to complete. The William Ricketts Sanctuary has become an important tourist destination displaying his life works.
Arguably, one of Guy Boyd’s most impressive works is a life-size bronze kneeling nude figure (lot 61), followed by The Dancer (lot 63), a large bronze panel entitled Three Graces (lot 62) and another bronze figure called Nude Study (lot 65).
Other Boyd works include Reclining Nude (lot 67), Seated Dancer (lot 68) and a nude study bronze (lot 66).
Another Australian sculptor of note in the collection is Kim Kennedy who is very familiar to rustic metal sculpture collectors.
Evan Mackley loved his themed and charactered work and commissioned several pieces for his property. Perhaps the most intriguing is The Flying Machine (lot 252) modelled on the birth of aviation.
Constructed on site, the sculpture occupies a prominent position on top of a large heavy metal pole and adds to the ambience of the garden setting.
Life size 19th century Black Forest bear figures (lots 91, 92 and 94) are bound to attract strong interest while the Black Forest figure titled Wilhelm Tell shows the fabled mythical character complete with crossbow and child (lot 93).
Including Evan and Simon Mackley’s own works, paintings by Australian artists such as Hugh Sawrey (1919-1999), Kevin Charles (Pro) Hart (1928-2006), David Boyd (1924-2011), David Bromley, Robert Dickerson (1924-2015) and Ailsa O’Connor (1921-1980) are another feature.
Sawrey’s The Card Game, W. Qld (lot 124), Hart’s Country Race Meeting (lot 123), Arthur Boyd’s Shoalhaven (lot 57) and Dickerson’s Geisha (lot 125) are all worth serious consideration.
Porcelain is another auction attraction such as a tall exhibition quality 19th century French ormolu mounted Sevres hand painted vase (lot 137) and a rare antique Doulton flambe animalier figure (lot 117).
Particular attention should be paid to the circa 1855 Charles Meigh & Son exhibition Majolica vase (lot 100), which is similar to the only other known example that resides in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Another impressive lot is the large exhibition quality pair of 19th century French Chateau de Longpre signed ormolu mounted lidded vases (lot 130) and Royal Worcester-Walter Austin rose painted crown lidded pot pourri ovoid shaped vase (lot 131).
For car lovers, there are two “barn finds”, 1970s Ford Ltd Marquis vehicles – garaged but covered in dust.