NAB auctions its art collection

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 2nd February, 2022

Australian artworks acquired over the past 50 years by the National Australia Bank (NAB) will be auctioned from 7pm February 22 by Deutscher and Hackett at 105 Commercial Road, South Yarra.

Featuring more than 2000 works - of which 73 will be offered at this auction, the collection includes examples from some of Australia’s most recognised artists such as Sidney Nolan, John Brack, Jeffrey Smart, Fred Williams, John Olsen, Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin.

NAB decided early last year to sell the paintings because, while they are historically important, they do not feature in the bank’s future plans.

Money raised from the auction will be reinvested back to the community via the NAB Foundation, which supports community grants that help prepare people, communities and the environment for natural disasters – including long-term recovery and resilience work.

The NAB collection started in the 1970s, a period of excitement and confidence with a cultural buoyancy underpinned by economic prosperity particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.

Under the visionary guidance of NAB director and its art committee chairman Sir Andrew Grimwade, ably assisted by consultant Melbourne art dealer George Mora, the bank began building an Australian art collection that was first displayed in 1982 to the public at the National Gallery of Victoria and comprised 102 paintings and six tapestries.

From lot 1, the paintings are bound to capture auction goers attention – and many no doubt will be hugely important to collectors and investors alike.

A typical example is John Brack’s (1920-1999) Through the Window, 1972 (lot 4) – a classic painting that exemplifies both his technical skill and the distinctive ingenuity he brought to his art.

Another is Jeffrey Smart’s (1921-2013) The Footbridge, 1975 (lot 6), yet another of his works evoking the classical stillness, geometry and light of Italian Renaissance paintings.

One of Australia’s leading modern landscape painters Fred Williams (1927-1982) is featured in several works including Forest Pond, 1974 (lot 7) – a fine rendition of his major shift to outdoor painting practice.

John Olsen uses the largest flood to hit normally dry Lake Eyre in 500 years as inspiration for Dark Void, 1976 (lot 10) after a 1974 visit to the area 700 kilometres north of Adelaide.

And Sidney Nolan’s (1917-1992) Camels in the Desert, 1951 (lot 21) is a result of his extensive travels two years earlier through central Australia.  

Albert Tucker (1914-1999) is another Australian artist to feature prominently – The Card Players, 1961-73 (lot 24) great example of his genre, along with Howard Arkley’s (1951-1999) Waterfall 2, 1988 (lot 13), the year he experienced critical and financial success with his first major exhibition devoted solely to paintings of suburban houses.

Master of Australian landscapes from the late 19th century to early 20th century Sir Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) is featured in the sale with his work Blue Vista from the Sundial, 1920 (lot 16) – while colleague Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) has a marvellous work entitled Williamstown Landscape, 1909 (lot 17) among the auction pickings.

George Baldessen (1939-1978) also makes an appearance through his sculpture Three Sided Personage, 1974 (lot 9).

Sydney viewing:

11am-6pm Tuesday February 8 to Sunday February 13

36 Gosbell Street, Paddington

Melbourne viewing:

11am-6pm Thursday February 17 to Monday February 21

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