In a sign that iconic Australian artist Brett Whiteley is currently driving the art market, Menzies Art Brands sold 15 of his works at its two-day September auction.
The works comprised a diverse range of large oils, mixed media portraits, drawings and prints.
Whiteley’s two major paintings – The Sunrise, Japanese: Good Morning! and Gaugin – brought prices commensurate with his popularity and the importance of the works (respectively $1,681,364 and $2,025,000), while others sold at multiples of their auction estimates.
The post-modern generation greats, who include the likes of Tim Storrier and Rick Amor, continue to attract a strong following.
Earlier this year, Menzies smashed Rick Amor’s auction price record with the sale of a large oil painting for $227,045.
The record was broken again at the September auction when Amor’s four-element bronze installation piece Figure in a Landscape sold for $233,181.
Likewise, Storrier’s Histrionic Wayfarer – a two-metre high bronze self-portrait closely related to the artist’s 2012 Archibald Prize winning painting – endured a brief but intense bidding duel to sell for $184,090.
Menzies head of Australian art Tim Abdallah believes the ability to have artful sculpture displays in the grounds of historic Stonington mansion (owned by Menzies executive chairman Rod Menzies) gives the auction house a strong advantage over its rivals.
“Stonington is a unique viewing facility which we think has the capacity to change art buying in Australia,” he said.
“By presenting major works by Australia’s best artists in these beautiful surroundings, we are opening collector’s minds to the possibilities of acquiring large pieces for display outdoors and at the same time offering encouragement to the artists to think ambitiously.”
Another artist to benefit from the Stonington mansion display was Arthur Boyd. His massive work (measuring 315 centimetres by 433 centimetres – a logistical nightmare for most collectors) Large Kneeling Figure with Canvas and Black Can 1973 was bought for $270,000 by a buyer with an impressive mansion of his own in which to hang it.
Collector interest in early Australian artists such as Sir Arthur Streeton has surged in recent months – evident once again in the September sale with his The Festa that sold for $184,091.
A powerful work painted in 1908 while Streeton was on his honeymoon in Venice, the work was acquired at the time by London society figure Sigismund Goetze and then disappeared for many years before turning up in an obscure French collection.
The second day of the auction was devoted to the dispersal of the Stock-in-Trade of Savill Galleries.
Owned and run by Australian art heavyweight Dennis Savill, since the 1980s Savill Galleries has been arguably Australia’s most revered art institution.