Finest ever decorative arts collection an auction for the ages

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 17th February, 2017

A William Moorcroft flambé Waratah exhibition vase dated 1939 adorns Mossgreen’s catalogue front cover – signifying the forthcoming auction of Australian journalist and businessman Trevor Kennedy’s massive decorative arts collection.

The vase is indicative of the quality of the items on offer and testament to Kennedy’s early interest in Australian history (from colonial times to the present day) and his zeal for collecting – helped by an enquiring intellect and years spent as the now defunct Bulletin editor, published from 1880 to 2008.

In 1995, his collection was boosted enormously when Kennedy purchased the late Ruth Simon’s collection of Australian and New Zealand objects amassed over 60 years for $8 million.

According to Mossgreen’s chief executive officer Paul Sumner, the combined collections, comprising thousands of items, created the finest assembly of decorative arts in Australia (now worth about $30 million), both inside and outside of any museum.

A sandstone and red brick terrace Kennedy bought a decade ago and converted into an office and museum in Sydney’s Rocks region is home to the collection.

Now 74, the Western Australian-born right hand man to the late media mogul Kerry Packer has tried unsuccessfully to half-sell, half-donate his collection to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

It will now be disposed of via a series of auctions over the next 12 months.  

The first sale, from 6pm Tuesday February 21 in Mossgreen’s Sydney premises at 36-40 Queen Street Woollahra, is only the initial part of the collection (featuring Moorcroft and Australian pottery and porcelain) – and is happening at the same time as the auction house seeks to place significant components by private treaty with Australia’s national institutions.

There are plenty of highlights in the auction – the Moorcroft exhibition vase with its catalogue estimate of $30,000-$50,000 is the showpiece, but there are several other fine Waratah examples.

Another strong collector attraction is the large Moorcroft Tasmanian blue gum vase circa 1993 (estimate $15,000-$25,000 – lot 81) and its companion lot 80 manufactured a year earlier.

Interesting is lot 221, a wheel thrown glazed earthenware bowl with underglaze decoration of an Aboriginal figure holding two boomerangs by Arthur Merric Boyd, Neil Douglas and John Perceval.  

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