By David Hulme & Brigitte Banziger, on 24-Nov-2012

Rex Irwin is not alone in promoting Francis Bacon prints on the back of the AGNSW show. Menzies 6th December sale in Sydney offers us Figure at a Basin 1978 (Lot 11 ), estimate $14,000-18,000. This pained and colourful work which was once part of the William Bowmore collection should satisfy any number of viewers from the AGNSW show who wanted to take a work home with them. The etching is also a very manageable 47 x 36 cm – unlike the majority of his oils at the AGNSW.


Image: Francis Bacon’s, Figure at a Basin, 1978, estimate $14,000-18,000 should satisfy any number of viewers from the AGNSW exhibition who wanted to take a work home with them.

At one time oversized paintings presented a problem in the auction room. Perhaps this has been amended by the sales of large-scale aboriginal paintings or that Menzies have a large space to display such works. Either way, there are a number of paintings on offer here which will require a very big wall to display them, starting with Annette Bezor’s Urban Turbans 2006 (Lot 22 ) at 165 x 330 cm, estimate $18,000-24,000. 

Other very large scale works include Sidney Nolan’s Burial of Burke, 1985 (Lot 35 ) 183 x 160.5 cm, estimate $180,000-240,00 Marc de Jong’s Oil Rig 2009 (Lot 54 ) at 195.5 x 126.5 cm, estimate $10,000-15,000 and current auction favourite Dale Frank with a predictably large Speedway 2001 (Lot 55 ), sized at an impressive 200 x 300 cm, estimate $30,000-40,000.

Even Garry Shead gets in on the act with a big 170 x 214 cm Visitation (Large) 1996 (Lot 39 ), estimate $260,000-320,000, Susan Norrie’s Bali Girls Abducted, 2010 (Lot 103 ) is an equally large 170 x 240 cm, estimate $16,000-22,000.

Other notable mentions size-wise go to Michael Johnson (Lot 16 ), estimate $25,000-35,000 Aida Tomescu (Lot 26 ) estimated at $$18,000-25,000, Ben Quilty (Lot 57 ), estimate $35,000-45,000, Tim Storrier (Lot 79 ), estimates of $10,000-15,000 and Lawrence Starkey’s Played at Speed 2012 (Lot 124 ), est. $9,000-12,000, bringing up the rear of the sale. 

Three good strong examples of Garry Shead’s works are represented in this sale apart from Visitation 1996 (Lot 39 ): The Guests c.1995 (Lot 51 ), estimate $80,000-100,000 and Tango 2003 (Lot 66 ), estimate $40,000-50,000.

Not a particularly big canvas, but one of the biggest contemporary names of the night is Takashi Murakami with Eye Love SUPERFLAT 2003 (Lot 44 ), est. $220,000-280,000. It will be interesting to see if Australia’s love of brands extends to paintings this explicit and Murakami placing his own eye moniker alongside the Louis Vuitton logo. Price paid in 2009 was US$210,000 plus buyer’s premium. With his prices still rising for his work, this could be a good buy at the lower estimate.

Sam Leach is not an artist who is used to working on big scale works, perhaps due to the meticulous nature of his practice. His paintings may not be getting bigger, however his prices are. One of the few Australian artists to be seen anywhere near this year’s Art Basel represented by Sullivan + Strumpf at satellite fair Volta 8. The Platform from 2007 (Lot 102 ) at just 36 x 26 cm with classic skull image should do well on its $8,000-12,000 estimate.

Ben Quilty’s Lloydy 2010 (Lot 57 ) purchased from the now defunct Grantpirrie Gallery equally should thrive on the $35,000-45,000 estimate. We are seeing a doubling in growth of Quilty’s prices at auction, led mainly by the ability of Menzies Auctioneers to obtain them from collectors and giftees alike.

Adam Cullen, who sadly passed away this year, has yet to become the Jean Michael Basquiat of the Australian art world – certainly price-wise. His average price at auction for 2012 on ten sales was $10,721. Rodeo Hip Sport Rodeo Clown 2007 (Lot 13 ) bears this out with an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

Linocut prints from the Grosvenor School are making big bucks at present, so maybe the ten Japanese woodblocks by Torii Kotondo (1900-1976) can follow this trend (lots 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95), estimates between $1,000-1,500 and $4,000-6000, although results for these prints are somewhat mixed. A different print of Morning Hair from 1931 estimated US$4,000-6,000 realised US$17,000 at Christies New York in 2008, and a print of Combing the Hair from 1932 sold for US$10,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2001.

Lot 52 is a historically very interesting group of seven photographs by Max Dupain from 1937, portraying many images of Harold Salvage, the model from one of Australia’s most famous photographs ‘Sunbaker’. Inherited from Salvage, they are now offered with expectations of $25,000-35,000.

More appealing from a collector’s point of view would be the other four Max Dupain photographs offered for sale: Untitled (Nude on Dune) 1930s (Lot 81 ), printed 1970s, est. $2,500-3,500, Birth of Venus 1930 (Lot 82 ), printed 1970s, est. $2,500-3,500, Silos through Windscreen 1935 (Lot 97 ), printed 1970s, est. $3,000-4,000 and Untitled (Nude and Cityscape) 1930s (Lot 98 ), printed 1970s, est. $3,000-4,000. Dupain is at his best here when tackling the nude or surrealist subjects.

Dupain’s prices in the auction room continue to baffle and slide downwards. His auction highs were in 2005, when his average price based on the sale of 31 works was $8,616, with his famous ‘Sunbaker’ image making a record $35,750 at Sotheby’s. Based on 22 sales so far in 2012, his average price is a paltry $4,088.

Tracy Moffat’s Self Portrait 1999 (Lot 99 ), estimate $10,000-15,000 would have to be a must buy for any serious collector of Australian photography. Like Sam Leach, this tiny work packs a punch way above its weight or size for that matter.

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.