Australian artist Jeffrey Smart’s The Observer II 1983-1984 set a new artist’s record of $2 million including buyer’s premium when it was knocked down to a room bidder at Menzies 20th anniversary auction in Melbourne on April 26.
With an opening bid of $700,000 going up in $50,000 increments, it came down to a contest between phone bidders and those in the Menzies Melbourne auction rooms.
The previous record of $1,260,000 for a Jeffrey Smart work was set at Deutscher and Hackett’s art sale in Sydney in August 2014.
The sale totalled $7.6 million including buyers’ premiums with many lots going for more than the top of the range estimates.
Six artist records (from post-Impressionist to contemporary) were broken at the standing-room-only auction held almost 20 years to the day from their first sale under what was then the Deutscher-Menzies flag.
This is a fitting tribute to Menzies understanding of the secondary art market as the auction house fights to expand the top end of the Australian art market by bringing international works of note to Australian shores.
One of the leaders in this field on sale night was Elioth Gruner, whose painting On The Sands 1920 smashed his previous records to reach $275,000. From the George Tallis collection, the money received will be used to help set the mike Tallis Award in Statistics at the University of New South Wales.
Among contemporary artists, Del Kathryn Barton was once more to the fore with Satellite Fade-out 7, 2011 reaching more than $243,000.
More records fell for recent works including Peter Smets’ On The Way to Prosperity ($28,750) and one-time Archibald Prize winner Euan Macleod’s seven-panel piece Seven-NZ/OZ 2010-2012 reaching $40,000.
And Tasmanian legend Michael McWilliams iconic treatise on the Tasmanian tiger Meeting on High Ground 2001 fetched $17,500.