Menzies expects huge interest in Sydney live art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 22nd March, 2021

Melbourne’s inclement weather did not keep enthusiastic potential buyers from a Sunday March 21 viewing of paintings at Menzies forthcoming art auction – to begin at 6.30pm Wednesday March 31 at the company’s Sydney-based Menzies Gallery at 12 Todman Avenue, Kensington.

Given the 12-month tussle Australia, like all other countries, has had with COVID-19, there was a sense of optimism that perhaps the worst of the pandemic was behind the industry – and that regular viewings and live auctions could once more become the norm.   

One expert was heard to comment that people would soon tire of online sales and predicted they would fall out of favour as buyers once more sought the excitement and adrenaline rush of in-room bidding.

Even so, Menzies is still erring on the side of caution by continuing to hold its auctions in Sydney (both the July and November 2020 sales were held there when coronavirus was running rampant in Melbourne), just in case Victoria is subjected to another sudden lockdown of the sort experienced for five days mid-February when the virus from quarantine cases once again escaped into the community.

Although many other Australian businesses might still be struggling to recover from a year of limited opportunities, the art market appears to going from strength to strength and Menzies March auction should be no exception.

One hundred and twenty-seven paintings are on offer including works by such iconic Australian names as Bret Whiteley, Arthur Streeton, Tim Storrier, Garry Shead, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Frederick McCubbin, Fred Williams, Robert Dickerson, Arthur and David Boyd, John Perceval, Rick Amor, John Olsen, Ray Crooke, Albert Tucker, Ben Quilty and Joy Hester.

There is plenty to excite – Menzies Art Brands co-founder and chairman Rod Menzies is particularly enthusiastic about lot 28, Sidney Nolan’s Moonlight 1980, for its luminescent qualities that reminds him of another Nolan Ned Kelly depiction, First Class Marksman 1946, he sold in March 2010 for a then Australian record $5.4 million – but other works are equally attractive to collectors.

One is an important and rare painting by Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus (1948-1996) titled Moonlight at Numerili 2, 1993 (lot 25), which appears on the auction catalogue front cover.

With a $320,000-$420,000 estimate and never before seen at auction, the painting is a significant example of the artist’s revered sequence of photo-realist paintings of waterbodies that simultaneously depict night sky reflections on the surface and aquatic life beneath.

Another auction star is Jeffrey Smart’s (1921-2013) major painting Bus by the Tiber 1977-78 (lot 30) with a $700,000-$900,000 estimate.

According to experts like Associate Professor Ken Wach, former head of the school of creative arts at the University of Melbourne, the painting is a signature work that exemplifies the artist’s unique and incisive artistic imagination.

William Robinson’s Tweed Valley, Rainforest Ridge and Beachmont 1999 (lot 27) is another large oil painting (137cm by 183cm) to incite comment as its size cannot help but capture admiring eyes.

Perennial favourite John Brack (1920-1999) also does not disappoint with his significant Green Nude 1971 (lot 29) carrying a catalogue estimate of  $400,000-$600,000 – which Professor Wach describes as typical of the artist’s carefully constructed geometric composition formats.

One of the paintings to really grab viewer attention is Charles Blackman’s (1928-2018) three-metre long Liberty Leading the People (after Delacroix 1830) 1993 (lot 33), which pays homage to French romantic artist Eugène Delacroix’s master work July 28: Liberty Leading the People commemorating the July Revolution of 1830.

Blackman painted his picture after being captivated by Delacroix’s painting on a 1963 Paris trip with fellow artist Arthur Boyd and satirist Barry Humphries.

Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) complete set of colour screenprints titled Kiku 1983 (lot 24) – created that year for his forthcoming travelling retrospective exhibition to Japan –undoubtedly adds international significance to the auction.

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