NEW YORK—Sotheby’s Australia held a sale of Australian art in Sydney on August 31, which took in a total of A$4.7million ($4.2million), well short of the estimate of A$6million. Of 80 lots offered, 51, or 64 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 77 percent sold. Despite the lackluster overall result, however, several lots brought strong prices that exceeded expectations.
The top lot was Shao (Rain Slanted by Wind), 1978–79, a painting by Brett Whitely, which sold for A$696,000 ($623,700) against an estimate of A$600,000/800,000. Charles Blackman’s tempera and oil on board The White Tablecloth, 1956, sold within the A$550,000/750,000 estimate for A$648,000 ($580,655). The Steps, 1967, a painting by Jeffrey Smart, sold for A$486,000 ($435,500), above the estimate of A$250,000/350,000.
A record was set for a work by Nora Heysen (1911–2003) when a 1932 self-portrait sold for A$168,000 ($150,540), double the estimate of A$60,000/80,000. This was more than four times the previous record of A$35,750 ($27,000), set at Sotheby’s in 2005.
“We are very pleased with the results for last night’s auction,” said Geoffrey Smith, vice chairman and national head of Australian art, said after the sale. “Some exceptional results proved once more that rare works of exceptional quality continue to create competitive bidding. The market for blue-chip art continues to stimulate robust demand and determined bidding from collectors.”
Other top lots included Burnt Landscape, 1968, a painting by Fred Williams, which sold for A$336,000 ($301,080), within the estimate of A$300,000/360,000, and another painting by Blackman, Schoolgirl, 1953, which brought A$162,000 ($145,164) against an estimate of A$140,000/180,000.
Heated bidding resulted in a final price of A$144,000 ($129,035) for Thomas John Domville Taylor’s Six Drawings of the Darling Downs, Queensland, which were contained in a family scrapbook (estimate: A$40,000/60,000).
Shoalhaven, an oil on board by Arthur Boyd, sold for A$121,000 ($108,425), nearly four times the A$40,000/60,000 estimate, while Shoalhaven River fetched A$114,000 ($102,152) on an estimate of A$80,000/120,000.
Arthur Streeton’s oil on wood panel Sydney Harbour, 1907, fetched A$120,000 ($107,529), exceeding the A$70,000/90,000 estimate.