Assembled by medical specialist and researcher, Dr Colin Laverty and his wife, Mrs Elizabeth Laverty, The Laverty Collection was one of the largest and most diverse collections of contemporary Australian art since the 1960s. Originally the collecting focus was on paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, with works by younger artists, sculptures, ceramics and other objects, but in the late 1980s the Lavertys began collecting Aboriginal art. This side of the collection grew substantially as the Laverty's began to gain an understanding of the complexity and depth of Aboriginal art.
The first sale, conducted by Bonhams in 2013, comprised 266 lots of Australian Contemporary art (indigenous and non-indigenous) and made a total of $5.1 million (IBP). Two years later, Deutscher and Hackett auctioned a further 166 lots of Australian Indigenous art for a total of $3.4 million (IBP).
The Laverty Collection Part III – Contemporary Australian Art sale consists of 152 lots, which represent a significant proportion of the remainder of the collection, is estimated to achieve $1.74 to $2.48 million.
The Indigenous section of the sale includes many of the artists that the Laverty’s championed and supported throughout their careers, with a particular focus on the Kimberley and Arnhem Land regions.
The sale starts strongly with the first lot, Kirriwirri 2007 (Lot 1 ) by the highly collectable Bidyadanga artist, Daniel Walbi, with an estimate of $18,000-25,000 which is around the median price for works by this artist. The secondary market for Walbidi’s work, though in its infancy (with only 22 works offered to date), has been growing steadily and 2016 saw some particularly exceptional results.
A good test of the market will be the result of Djugamerri and Bolgumerri, (Lot 10 ) 1991 by Rover Thomas. Works by Thomas have been selling well over the last two years, including the 2016 sale of Ruby Plains Massacre 1, 1985, also at Deutscher and Hackett, for $366,000 IBP and Bungullgi 1989, sold through Menzies in 2015 for $380,455 IBP. At 89.5 x 110cm this work is significantly smaller than these examples and estimated at $220,000-300,000.
Emily Kngwarreye is also well represented with two works of premium provenance: Untitled (Dried Flowers and Fruits), 1990 (Lot 11 ) from Delmore Gallery and is from the artist’s desirable early period. Untitled, 1992 (Lot 12 ), commissioned by Rodney Gooch, with conservative estimates of $12,000-18,000 should do well.
An auction-crowd favourite, Rosalie Gascoigne leads a core group of the non-indigenous artists in the catalogue with an unusual assemblage constructed with discarded, sun-baked sheets of linoleum. Rose Pink, 1992 (Lot 19 ) has been in the Laverty’s collection since it was bought from Roslyn Oxley in 1998 and carries an estimate of $45,000-65,000.
The cover lot for the auction is a superb example of one of William Robinson’s popular farmyard scenes, Birkdale Farm Construction with Willy Wagtail, 1983-1984 (Lot 22 ). Making its first appearance on the market since the Laverty’s purchased it from Ray Hughes Gallery in 1987; this wonderfully whimsical painting has been estimated at $250,000-350,000.
On a more conservative level, many works by equally significant Australian artists are estimated below $20,000. The Laverty’s were keen collectors of Peter Booth, Richard Larter and Robert Klippel, whose artworks can be found in just about every major public collection in Australia and yet can also be reasonably affordable on the secondary market. Other artists with works falling into this category and with reasonable estimates are Aida Tomescu, Ken Whisson, Noel McKenna and Ildiko Kovacs.
This auction reflects the collecting ethos of the Laverty’s, where works were purchased purely on their artistic merit and only when Liz and Colin Laverty agreed. It also emphasises the foundational tenet of the Laverty collection, that indigenous and non-indigenous art hang together seamlessly, and the art itself is paramount, not its origins.