MELBOURNE—Australian art museums helped bolster the sale of Australian and international fine art held by Deutscher and Hackett on April 29. Four public galleries bought 16 of the 33 paintings consigned from the social realist collection of Melbourne businessman Ian Hicks, which opened the auction.
The sale took in a mid-estimate total of A$3.4million ($2.4 million), and was 62 percent sold by value. With 139 of the 215 lots sold, the sold-by-lot rate was 65 percent.
However, a number of the lots sold for prices below their estimates, and an anonymously sourced private collection of 14 works of Australian colonial and Impressionist art, which followed the works from the Hicks Family Collection, attracted little interest, with only three of the lots finding buyers.
The sale’s top lot was Jingle Jangle Morning, 2006, by New Zealand artist Bill Hammond. The large 471⁄4-by-71-inch painting featuring the artist’s signature strange half-human, half-bird creatures sold for A$276,000 ($194,541) to dealer Roger McIlroy, former managing director of Christie’s Australia and now a partner in Nevill Keating McIlroy, London and Melbourne.
Christo’s mixed-media-on-board Wrapped Sydney Opera House, 1969, sold for A$108,000 ($76,124) to Melbourne art consultant Ian Rogers, bidding against strong overseas competition (estimate: A$50,000/80,000).
Although the auction’s hammer total of A$2.86million ($2million) fell well short of the low estimate of A$4.65million ($3.3million), Deutscher and Hackett executive director Chris Deutscher described the result as “very pleasing” given the financial crisis. However, he noted, the offering was not helped by a last-minute decision to levy a 10 percent sales tax on the full hammer price—usually associated with a trade or other corporate offering—or by the second-rank reputation of the 19th-century masters involved.
The saleroom was packed with more than 250 people, and the auction occasionally produced some very spirited bidding, both on the phone and in the room. The rarity and freshness to the market of Hicks’s mostly pre–World War II pictures were responsible for the strong institutional interest. Hicks, who inherited a fortune in the chemicals industry, is the chairman of Deutscher and Hackett.
The Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, each bought five pictures, as did the Ballarat Fine Arts Gallery, in the once-booming Victoria gold-field town of Ballarat. The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, paid A$72,000 ($50,750) for Herbert Badham’s The Night Bus, circa 1933, and the NGA paid a total of A$108,000 ($76,125) for a number of works by Yosl Bergner, George Duncan, Edmund Harvey, Jacqueline Hick and Frank Medworth, all depicting men at work.