French 20th century master Fernand Léger’s 1943 painting China Town sold for $1,840,909 (including buyer’s premium) at Menzies February auction in Melbourne.
The sale realised a healthy $7,416,464 (84 per cent by volume and 83 per cent by value) and once again Brett Whiteley’s pre-eminent place at the top of the Australian market was reinforced with the seven of his works changing hands.
These ranged from $9818 for a small ink drawing of a Buddha to $859,091 for a Lavender Bay oil from the classic year of 1974.
Collectors are also turning their attention to the next generation of big names – where Tim Storrier and Garry Shead are the leading lights.
According to Menzies head of Australian art Tim Abdallah, both artists continue to extend their markets.
“We have sold several major works by Storrier in recent years and, each time we sell one, we seem to add a further two buyers to the list of collectors wanting one,” he said.
Women artist are now starting to play an important market role – with the works of three females hotly contested.
Bronwyn Oliver – the subject of a retrospective that concluded a few days prior to the auction – made $257,727 for Clasp produced in 2006, the year she prematurely died.
Bids came from throughout the room and via three telephones, racing past the $160,000 top estimate with all bidders still in the action.
Louise Hearman has had an excellent year, winning an Archibald Prize and holding a major exhibition at the Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Her untitled work (lot 111) set a new auction artist record of $19,636.
Cressida Campbell’s delightful watercolour on woodblock entitled Gum Leaves brought $30,682, reinforcing her position as currently the hottest artist around.
Three new auction record prices were set for contemporary artists on a night characterised by good bidding from a packed room, with George Gittoes ($122,727 for The Beast) and Neil Frazer ($20,250 for Crooked Mile) joining Hearman in the record stakes.
According to Abdallah, strong interest in contemporary art indicates the market is both broadening and becoming more sophisticated.