Whiteley’s infamous Gauguin (also known as Portrait of Paul Gauguin on the Eve of his Attempted Suicide, Tahiti) 1968 (Lot 37 ) immediately followed with pre-sale estimates of $1,600,000-2,000,000. Previously bought by Rod Menzies through Sotheby’s in New York in 2014 and then sold at Menzies the same year for $1,400,000 hammer ($1.7mill IBP), this time round the painting sold to a Melbourne collector for $1,650,000 ($2,025,000 IBP).
Strong results for three of the artists works on paper at the beginning of the sale set the tone for these larger canvases. Eight phone bidders and several more in the room competed for Pelican Dripping Water 1988 (Lot 10 ) which easily surpassed its $10,000-15,000 estimates. The lot was eventually bought by a Sydney fashion identity for $36,000 hammer ($44,182 IBP). The following lot 11, Black Swan c1988 also did well at $20,000 hammer ($24,545 IBP), and The Fish River 1979 (Lot 13 ), fresh from its US home, drew another battle over the phones to sell for $42,000 hammer ($51,545 IBP) – both to Sydney buyers.
These results, and that of the four other works by Whiteley which all sold within or well above their estimates (not to mention several works on paper auctioned at the Stock-in-Trade of Savill Galleries the following evening), will easily bump the artist into the top position of AASD’s Top 10 Most Traded Artists for 2016.
Though Whiteley certainly stole the show, there were many other strong results for quality pieces throughout the evening.
William Dobell’s Faces of Kings Cross (Lot 2 ) was the first painting to turn heads with four phone bidders and several in the room vying for the work on paper. The painting quickly eclipsed its pre-sale estimates of $8,000-12,000 to be knocked down for $18,000 hammer ($22,091 IBP).
Enthusiasm for works by Cressida Campbell continues to grow with a great result for Pittosporum 1995, (Lot 7 ), a woodblock triptych bought from, and remaining in the same hands since, the artist’s 1997 exhibition at Philip Bacon Galleries. With pre-sale estimates of $20,000-30,000, four phone bidders battled it out before it was knocked down for $45,000 hammer ($55,227 IBP).
Arthur Streeton’s The Festa (The Fête) 1908 (Lot 27 ) sold for $150,000 hammer ($184,091 IBP) to a Melbourne buyer. Another work by Streeton, Richmond from Fairlie House c1925 (Lot 40 ) has found its way back to Melbourne – sold by a Queensland collector for $85,000 hammer ($104,318 IBP).
After the spike in works offered and prices reached following Jeffrey Smart’s death in 2013, results for the artist’s paintings seem to have settled back to comfortable levels. First Study for the Arrow Carriers 1978 (Lot 29 ) was well bought for $75,000 hammer ($92,045 IBP) however the larger Mother and Child 2000 (Lot 34 ) with pre-sale estimates of $240,000-300,000 went unsold on the night.
Sculpture in general performed extremely well, beginning with Tim Storrier’s larger than life-size bronze sculptural version of his Archibald Prize winning canvas The Histrionic Wayfarer (After Bosch) (Lot 31 ). Making an auction debut for any sculpture by the artist, the 2.1 metre tall figure sold to a Sydney thoroughbred racing identity for $150,000 hammer ($184,091 IBP).
This was immediately followed by a new auction record for Rick Amor, whose four-piece bronze, Figure in a Landscape 2007 (Lot 32 ), sold to a Melbourne collector for $190,000 hammer ($233,182 IBP). Amor’s current exhibition of New Works at Niagara Galleries may have stimulated some collecting interest.
A 1.7 metre bronze sculpture by Robert Klippel, entitled Opus 421 (b) 1983 (Lot 48 ), in the same hands since it was bought at his 1983 exhibition at Watters Gallery in Sydney, sold for $57,000 hammer ($70,568 IBP).
Later in the sale a domestically appropriate-sized painted bronze by John Kelly, The Unpainted Cows in a Pile 1995 (Lot 76 ) with estimates of $26,000-35,000 attracted a flurry of interest. Bidding began with a bold opening offer of $32,000 from one of the phones, even before auctioneer Martin Farrah had announced the lot. The tactic failed to scare off the many other buyers, however, and the bidder quickly dropped out making way for a prolonged battle between two other phone bidders. The work was eventually knocked down to a Sydney buyer for $62,000 hammer ($76,091 IBP).
A colourful beach scene entitled Deauville, Les Tentes 1956 (Lot 35 ), by one of the top Fauvists, Kees Van Dongen drew a lot of international interest but the painting was eventually knocked down to a Melbourne collector for $350,000 hammer ($429,545 IBP).
Arthur Boyd’s monumental Large Kneeling Figure with Canvas and Black Can 1973 (Lot 38 ) was next up. The impressive 315 x 433 metre painting was fresh to the market, being sold from the collection of Boyd’s son Jamie who lives in the UK. With similar (though much smaller) works in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, this painting had all the pedigree and importance it needed to find a keen buyer – as long as they had large enough walls to accommodate it. It sold for $220,000 hammer ($270,000 IBP) to a prominent Melbourne collector who is reportedly putting the finishing touches on a particularly grand new house. The same collector also later bought a stunning bronze sculpture by Phillip Piperides, Stepping Bather (Lot 77 ) for $32,000 hammer ($39,273 IBP).
Results for the handful of Indigenous artworks were mixed, though two sold very well: Iconography #66 2016 (Lot 46 ), painted by Naata Nungurrayi earlier this year, quickly returned to the market to sell for its high estimate of $80,000 hammer ($98,182 IBP), an exceptional result for a work not sourced with community art centre provenance. Untitled 1992 (Lot 47 ) by Emily Kngwarreye, together with the desirable primary source of provenance, sold for $40,000 hammer ($49,091 IBP) with pre-sale estimates of $45,000-55,000.
The official sale results were not available at the time of writing however this writer calculated a total of $6,519,500 hammer ($8,001,204 IBP) and 71% of the 125 lots sold on auction night.