MELBOURNE—The Sotheby’s auction of Australian and international art, held in Melbourne on Nov. 21, grossed $A7.5 million ($5.8 million), with 88 percent sold by value and 73 percent by lot. The sale total was higher than usual for an end-of-year auction, which traditionally has more modest offerings and overall results.
The high total and strong response were due in part to the strength of the lead offering (the first 12 of 271 lots) of modern and Australian art from the estate of the late Ted Lustig, cofounder of the Melbourne property-development company Lustig & Moar. Together the 12 lots brought A$2.3 million ($1.75 million).
The top price yielded by the Lustig collection, which accounted for about half of that total, was A$1.4 million ($1.1 million), for Water Pond in a Landscape II, 1966, by Fred Williams (1927-1982). In Lustig’s collection since 1976, the oil on canvas fetched nearly three times its A$500,000 high estimate from art consultant Sue Hewitt, a former managing director of Christie’s Australia.
Other works from the Lustig collection that brought solid six-figure prices: Hillside (Shoalhaven), circa 1975, by Arthur Boyd (1920-99), which took A$144,000, or $110,700 (estimate: A$60,000/80,000); Summer into Autumn, 1963, by John Perceval (1923-2000), which made A$102,000, or $78,400 (estimate: A$28,000/35,000); and Autumn Leaves, 1956, also by Perceval, which won A$168,000 ($130,000), though the final price fell below the A$150,000/225,000 estimate.
The second-most-costly work in the auction (but not from the Lustig estate) was the $A1.02 million ($784,200) painting Alice’s Journey, 1957, by Charles Blackman (b. 1928), estimated to make A$700,000/900,000. It was acquired by art consultant Brian Kino, on behalf of Lustig & Moar for its corporate collection.
Sydney dealer Denis Savill, who secured 35 works for inventory, said he had never seen the market so strong in nearly four decades of trading.
Sotheby’s Georgina Pemberton, head of Australian paintings, reports that “newly discovered, good quality Australian paintings [have been] coming to light.” (No fall sales were held by Christie’s, which announced last March that it would cease holding regular auctions in Australia [ANL, 3/28/06]).