By David Hulme & Brigitte Banziger, on 19-Mar-2011

Robert Davidson’s reputation for honesty and integrity in a sometimes shadowy auction market is perhaps one thing that keeps his regular clientele coming back for more – even on a particularly bleak and rainy day.

Lot 2, the rare hand-coloured lithograph of our long-gone Tasmanian tiger by John Gould from his ‘Mammals of Australia’, 1845-63, set the auction off to a good start, selling for the high estimate of $11,000 hammer.

Another might be Davidson’s keen estimates, which regularly see him trouncing the competition with his clearance rates. Davidson’s affable and no-nonsense approach to auctioneering is well appreciated by bidders.

Like many fine art auctioneers in an art downturn, Davidson has stretched out his estimates to both please his sellers’ hopes and meet his buyers’ expectations.

Lot 2, John Gould’s Thylacine from his ‘Mammals of Australia’, 1845-63, raced off to a good start. The rare hand-coloured lithograph of our long-gone Tasmanian tiger sold for the high estimate of $11,000 (all figures exclude buyer’s premium).

There were a number of Lionel Lindsay prints in the sale, but none to match ‘The Black Cat’. The woodcut left the $500 - $800 estimate far behind and sold for $1,900.

Also racing ahead through spirited bidding was A. Twigg’s ‘Colonial Yacht Race on Sydney Harbour’, c. 1860-1880. This was probably the closest to being the sleeper of the sale. Appraised at $600 to $800, it sold for more than five times the upper estimate with a very healthy $4,500.

Lot 46, “The Pilot Cove”, was highly sought after as well. Three phone bidders and many in the room fought over the small Hugh Sawrey painting, despite some condition problems, perhaps reflecting the sale estimate of $800 to $1,200. The keenest bidder was finally successful with a hammer price of $3,500.

Thea Proctor’s ‘The Swing’, 1925, a delightful coloured woodcut, lot 18, achieved a respectable $4,750. This result is in line with others of the same image: in 2010, one sold with Deutscher + Hackett for $5,800 in September, and one with Lawson-Menzies for $5,000 in November. Two other Proctor prints found buyers as well, lot 45 ‘Reverie’ at the low estimate of $1,500, and lot 48 ‘The Tame Bird’, 1916, made the top estimate with $2,500.

A total of seven large D’Arcy Doyle paintings from one collection sold at today’s auction, only one of them met the high estimate – lot 197 ‘The Baker’s Cart’, with an estimate of $8,000 - $12,000, sold for $12,000. The other six sold for between $7,000 and $8,500.

A large stoneware bowl circa 1978 – 1980 by Aboriginal ceramicist Gloria Fletcher Thancoupie just crept above the reserve to sell for $6,500. Her highest price at auction was achieved by Shapiro Auctioneers in December 2002, lot 140, when ‘Pot’, c. 1989, sold for $25,277 including buyer’s premium. However in recent years, much like the rest of the Aboriginal art market, her prices have fallen along with demand.

There was humorous and protracted bidding on two phones for lots 235 and 236, two bronze sculptures by Barbara Tribe. The ‘Female Torso”, Thailand 1971, sold above the high estimate of $1,200 for $1,400, while ‘Torso of a Man’, Thailand 1971, was not so desired and sold for the low estimate at $800. The same bronze titled ‘Eve’, 19071, sold with Bonhams and Goodman in March 2009 for $1,500.

There were as ever what seemed like a large number of successful internet bids, although most seemed reluctant to go over the $1,000 threshold.

All in all, the auctioneer seemed please with his sale as did his bidders. It remains a buyer’s market with many works selling at or below the low estimates.

Sale Referenced:

About The Author

David Hulme is a fine art appraiser and an approved valuer for the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program. He and Brigitte Banziger are principals of Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants, Manly, NSW and are members of the Art Consulting Association of Australia.