Melbourne auction reveals passionate collection of self-made businessman

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 24th September, 2021

Perhaps it was his humble and uncertain childhood that made the late Harry Oviss such a successful businessman.

In any event, his property and development ventures enabled him to indulge a passion for the arts and build a comprehensive collection of paintings, ceramics, designer furniture and jewellery that is now being auctioned online by Melbourne-based Gibson’s Auctions over three days from 11am Sunday October 3.

The sale will continue from 11am Monday October 4 and close from 10am Tuesday October 5.

Because of current Victorian COVID-19 restrictions no physical viewing is possible and all bidding will be online, over the phone or via absentee bids.

Born in Palestine in 1923, Harry Oviss was only a baby when his parents migrated to  Australia the following year in search of a better life.

The 1930s Great Depression profoundly affected Harry who from about 14 was instilled with an insatiable desire to become successful in business.

Over time, he became a highly sought after clothing and fashion magnate with an exclusive knitwear shop in Melbourne’s iconic Block Arcade. While Harry was naturally talented in this field, his true love lay in property – a direction in which he would eventually and very successfully head.

A lifetime hobby, he immensely enjoyed art and over his long life built up an extensive collection of modern and contemporary pieces including works by Roger Kemp, Donald Friend, Leonard French and Robert Dickerson.

Australian ceramics and art glass make up a significant proportion of the collection and include works by Arthur, David, Merric, Lucy and Guy Boyd, Reg Preston, Shigeo Shiga, Vic Greenaway and Deborah Halpern.

Mid-20th century Danish designer furniture is represented with several iconic pieces by Hans Wegner and the jewellery section of the collection by the likes of Gary Bradley and Matcham Skipper.

Among the art works on offer is Roger Kemp’s (1908-1987) Poem in Space (lot 157), Edwin Tanner’s (1920-1980) Little Man 1962 (lot 162) and Leonard French’s (1928-2017) Girl on Carousel 1953 (lot 168).

A Guy Boyd (1923-1988) bronze entitled Adam’s Rib 1970 (lot 252) is prominent, while Robert Jacks (1943-2014) Guitar 1996 bronze (lot 256) is another strong offering.

Buyers will find it difficult to ignore Andy Warhol’s (1930-1987) signed Boxing Glove (lot 175) that he wore for the sitting of the Warhol Basquiat Joint Show Party poster.

American artist Dale Chihuly oval royal blue bowl (lot 427) is another attraction along with a Lalique frosted glass Bacchus vase designed in 1938 (lot 450).

Unusual is a signed tall glazed earthenware teapot by Deborah Halpern (lot 580) and colourful a collection of nine hand painted slipware plates decorated with indigenous figures by Martin Boyd (lot 585).

A pair of Hans Wegner circa 1951 Danish teak AP-19 Papa Bear armchairs (lot 733) will undoubtedly excite auction goers as well as his teak Sawbuck chairs designed circa 1955 for Carl Hansen (lot 730).

Among the jewellery on offer, lots 3, 12 and 17 – a gent’s gold link neck chain, a diamond collar necklace and a handmade gold necklace – are bound to attract plenty of attention.

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