ARTnewsletter Archive

Australian Art Exceeds Expectations at Sotheby’s

The first Sotheby’s art auction in Australia under a new franchise agreement was held in Melbourne on Nov. 23, and grossed A$7.4 million ($6.8 million), exceeding the overall estimate of A$4.7 million/6.5 million.

MELBOURNE—The first Sotheby’s art auction in Australia under a new franchise agreement was held in Melbourne on Nov. 23, and grossed A$7.4million ($6.8million), exceeding the overall estimate of A$4.7million/6.5million. Of 106 lots offered, 89, or 84 percent, were sold.

The sale of Australian art was organized before Sotheby’s announced in late September that it would sell its Australian auction operations to First East Auction Holdings, which owns rival Sydney auctioneer Bonhams & Goodman (the Australian branch of Bonhams), for an undisclosed sum and license the Sotheby’s brand to First East (ANL, 10/6/09).

At the recent sale, bidding by private collectors, consultants and dealers in the room supplemented numerous powerful phone bids and a few absentee bids. Peter Moran, of the Sydney-based Moran Health Care hospital group, who was sitting in the room speaking on the phone with his parents, Doug and Gretel Moran, paid A$312,000 ($285,652) for Australian Impressionist painter Arthur Streeton’s Melba’s Country, 1936, from the collection of the late Dr. and Mrs. D.R. Sheumack (estimate: A$90,000/120,000), and A$300,000 ($274,665) for Norman Lindsay’s The woman I am–the Woman I was–the Woman I will be, 1914 (estimate: A$150,000/$250,000). The latter was last sold at Sotheby’s in June 2001 for A$125,000 ($63,587), from the collection of the now deceased Sydney stockbroker Rene Rivkin.

A telephone buyer outbid dealer Roger McIlroy and others on a tiny Impressionist painting of a Melbourne beachscape, Centennial Choir at Sorrento, ca. 1888–90, by Charles Conder, whose work produced during his eight-year stay in Australia is far more highly priced than any of the work he did at home in England or in France. The work sold for A$492,000 ($453,820) on an estimate of A$250,000/350,000.

David Sheumack, son of the Sheumacks, said that the A$1.1million ($1million) result from the 27 works he had consigned was “mind-boggling,” but a tribute to his parents’ taste and their association with many of the artists of the period between the wars and of the early postwar years.

After prolonged bidding both in the room and on the phone, Russell Drysdale’s Evening, ca. 1945, sold for A$690,000 ($636,456), almost double the estimate of A$250,000/350,000, to Melbourne art consultant Jon Dwyer.

Georgina Pemberton, the departing head of Australian art at Sotheby’s Australia, said that “collectors responded well to our focus on fresh-to-the-market property with conservative estimates. The market’s attention to works of quality and rarity echoes the trends we have seen internationally.” Pemberton is to be replaced by Geoffrey Smith, a former curator of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.