By Jane Raffan, on 16-Dec-2009

The combined Deutscher/Lawson Menzies Sale made $4,935,775 (hammer) against its presale low estimate total of $6.384 million, with 197 from 252 lots snared by clients, providing Menzies with a solid clearance rate of 78% by lot and 77% by value. Presumably filled with the confidence the Government keeps spouting, high end collectors cleared all but one of the sale’s twelve top lots over $100,000.

As expected, Fred Williams’ fresh Summer Snow at Perisher (Lot 33 ) was snapped up for $700,000, just over its suggested $680,000. Whiteley came in number 2, with his Westerly with Daisies (Lot 32 ) clawing its way to make $550,000 against a low-end expectation of $600,000. The artist’s The Dove and the Moon (Lot 30 ) estimated at $250–350,000, made $230,000, while The Blue Wren (Lot 38 ) did raise a whisker at $180,000-240,000.

Cute and quirky won favour in the portraits, with Bunny’s Jeanne with her Terrier (Lot 34 ) selling for $330,000 (pre-sale $360,000–440,000), and Whiteley’s Portrait of John Singleton as a Surfie (Lot 26 ) cresting at $55,000 (pre-sale $60,000–80,000). Drysdale’s more sombre Half-Caste Woman (Lot 35 ) made $260,000 against its $300,000 pre-sale low estimate expectation.

As with past sales, the top Aboriginal lots carried the Lawson Menzies component. All but two from five works circa $100K sold, with Emily Kame Kngwarreye taking out honours with Kame Colour (Lot 144) for $132,500, albeit heavily discounted from its pre-sale of $200,000-260,000. Paddy Bedford’s Mad Gap (Lot 140) broke this year’s drought for major works by the artist, making $120,000 against expectations of $150,000–180,000, which was $20K up on the hammer from its airing last year. Maggie Watson Napangardi’s Mina Mina Dreaming (Lot 143) failed to sell, despite being offered with the same estimate as its last presentation at $250–320,000, where it made $348,000 with BP.

The sale offered little drama, with most lots in the bread and butter core managing results just shy of their estimates. Notable exceptions included an early ‘plant’: John Passmore’s The Straight Tree (Lot 7 ) shot up to $28,000 against its estimate of $7,500-9,500; and this was repeated mid-sale, with Hans Heysen’s Sheltering Gum (Lot 103 ) making $9,500 against its modest pre-sale of $3,000-4,000.

Works on paper by the moderns carried energy through to the end of the night, with Blackman’s Night (Lot 183) attracting Dickerson fans to easily make $16,000 against its estimate of $9,000-12,000; and Whiteley’s Untitled (Dove) (Lot 221) tripling its low-end estimate to sell at $15,000. Unsurprisingly, populist Aussie stocking fillers also sold well, with Hugh Sawrey’s Wedge-Tail Eagle’s Nest (Lot 165) surpassing its high end to make $24,000.

With the Lawson-Menzies component separated from Deutscher-Menzies, the latter will report a greater clearance rate, but the tenor of the sale is more in line with the narrative offered by the reality of the Menzies Art Brands event’s combined figures: solid, not startling. 2010 will bring change to the industry, and we all hope that the fresh competition will be matched by fresh works and renewed collector fervour.


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About The Author

Jane Raffan runs ArtiFacts, an art services consultancy based in Sydney. Jane is an accredited valuer for the Australian government’s highly vetted Cultural Gifts Program, and Vice President of the Auctioneers & Valuers Association of Australia. Jane’s experience spans more 20 years working in public and commercial art sectors, initially with the AGNSW, and then over twelve years in the fine art auction industry. Her consultancy focuses on collection management, advisory services and valuations. She is the author of Power + Colour: New Painting from the Corrigan Collection of Aboriginal Art.