Big name artists give Australian art auction a welcome boost

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 14th March, 2024

With no million-dollar estimate paintings at its March 27 Melbourne auction, Menzies is relying on the pulling power of iconic Australian artists Charles Blackman (1928-2018) and Brett Whiteley (1939-1992) to bring buyers through the doors of its recently renovated 1 Darling Street, South Yarra premises for a 6.30pm start.

Blackman’s Day Dream 1958 (lot 33) carries the auction’s highest catalogue estimate of $200,000-$250,000.

The painting is a key element of the artist’s Faces and Flowers series, completed at a time when he was at the peak of his early recognition and held in the same private collection since being acquired from Brisbane’s Johnstone Gallery more than 60 years ago.

Whiteley’s The Heroin Clock 2 1981 (lot 28) continues Menzies association with the famed art collection of Sydney QC, the late Clive Evatt – also founder of the city’s Hogarth Galleries.

A giant of the art industry, Evatt was well-known as the former owner of Whiteley’s Henri’s Armchair 1974-74, sold in November 2020 by Menzies for a world record $6.25 million including buyer’s premium.

Despite a total preoccupation during the 1980s with alcohol and illicit drugs, Whiteley’s creative output was prolific and The Heroin Clock 2 is probably the most overt representation of his addiction.

The painting features two clock faces side by side on a clean white surface in a Perspex box – the left conventional and the right showing numbers three to eight spaced sporadically, with nine to 12 compressed on top of each other while the remainder of the dial is left void.

Also from the Evatt estate is pop artist Martin Sharp’s (1942-2013) colourful rendition of a famous cartoon character entitled Ginger Meggs 1979 (lot 19) and an Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) wilderness work called The Hunter 1945 (lot 32) – revealing the diversity of the late barrister’s taste.

Women artists are strongly represented in this auction with the ever-popular Clarice Beckett (1887-1935) featuring through her century-old work Bridge over the Yarra (Punt Road Bridge) c1924 (lot 35).

The catalogue estimate range of $80,000-$120,000 reflects the respect her works are now demanding, something that was not evident during her lifetime.

A contemporary entry is that by CJ Hendry, a young Australian female artist now based in New York. Fascinated with objects, form and colour, her Prada IT Bag 2014 creation (lot 30) reveals a close, almost tactile engagement with her subject matter.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite (1889-1960) is another perennial auction favourite and her ink and watercolour entitled The Fairy Dance (lot 1) is unlikely to disappoint.

Other paintings of note include Lin Onus’s (1948-1996) work Gumiring Garkman 1994 (lot 27). One of his signature reflected upside down landscapes, it shows the heights of his artistic talents.

The son of an Aboriginal activist father William Onus and Scottish mother Mary, sadly he died aged only 47 from a heart attack – but not before being recognised as one of Australia’s most important visual artists.

Famous for his block black and white cow creations, John Kelly is another to feature with Man Looking into a Zebra 2000 (lot 31).

The onlooker obtains the distinct impression that this is a lifeless prop in the process of being assembled for a zoological exhibition and is a strong reflection of Kelly’s desire to create works that encapsulate ideas and concepts which intrigue him.

Landscape artists such as Tom Roberts (1856-1931) and Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) are always in demand and no doubt their respective works Lake Como 1913 (lot 37) and A Summer Field c1905 (lot 38) will encourage plenty of discussion.


Viewing Sydney:


Thursday March 14 to Sunday March 17

Menzies Gallery

12 Todman Avenue, Kensington


Viewing Melbourne:


Thursday March 21 to Tuesday March 26

Menzies Gallery

1 Darling Street, South Yarra


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