Artists on the rise in Australia

[21 Aug 2002]

 

The art market is traditionally quiet in August. But Australia, the world’s ninth largest market in 2001, has taken advantage of the summer break to hold the first big sales of the coming season. Sale catalogues feature a number of the Aussie artists that have recently been making waves at auctions.

Australian artists are much in vogue this year. The best-known have seen spectacular rises in their benchmarks over the last few months, led by Brett WHITELEY, who won the international prize at the Paris Biennale 1961, and whose work topped the sales at Australian public auctions in January to June 2002 while his price benchmark gained 10%. Arthur BOYD, whose paintings have risen in value by 50% since January 2002. Against this trend, Australian landscapist Sidney Robert NOLAN is one of the few Aussies to have lost value lately.

Collectors should be pleased with the quality and range of the lots offered at the Australian sales. Sotheby’s kicks off proceedings with an auction in Sydney on 25-26 August. The 800 lots include a magnificent Portrait of Wendy (1985) by Brett WHITELEY, estimated at AUD 170,000-200,000* and a large number of Arthur BOYD canvases, including Bride in a Cave With Rainbow (AUD 400,000-600,000) which could well drive up the benchmarks for these two painters. In the following few days Christie’s holds its Melbourne sale. One of the most eagerly awaited lots here will be a major work by John Cecil BRACK, Seated Nude (AUD 200,000-300,000). Brack has enjoyed one of the biggest jumps on the market. AUD 100 invested in one of his paintings in 1997 would have been worth AUD 400 in June 2002. Another highly profitable artist this year, Frank Jeffrey Edson SMART, will be represented with his The Stadium I (AUD 80,000-120,000).

In the contemporary art market, two Australian names are exploding in popularity : the painter Timothy Austin STORRIER and photographer Tracey MOFFATT. Enthusiasts for the young photographer can bid for 3 exceptional pictures at another auction organised by Sotheby’s in Melbourne on 8 September. One of the mythical prints from the series Something More (1989) has an estimated price of AUD 80,000-120,000. As for Léon HAFFNER (Attrib.), bidding could well be intense for Burning Logs, typical of the artist’s large format works whose prices have been spiralling for the last five years. In less than 6 months, the value of his paintings has risen 38.3%.

If the Melbourne and Sydney auctions can repeat the exceptional hammer prices Aussie artists have been commanding in the first season, it will augur well for the season about to begin.

*AUD = Australian Dollar = approximately USD 0.54

Top 20 artists sold at auction in Australia                          from january to june 2002

Rank 1st half 2002

Rank in 2001

Turnover in Australia during 1st half 2002 

Lots sold 1st half 2002

Artist

1

2

EUR 1 460 755

33

Brett WHITELEY(1939-1992)

2

3

EUR 1 335 042

39

Arthur BOYD(1920-1999)

3

78

EUR    652 065

3

Frederick MCCUBBIN(1855-1917)

4

1

EUR    539 923

70

Sidney Robert NOLAN(1917-1992)

5

43

EUR    509 072

21

John de Burgh PERCEVAL(1923-2000)

6

6

EUR    480 638

11

Frank Jeffrey Edson SMART(1921)

7

9

EUR    368 548

8

Arthur Ernest STREETON(1867-1943)

8

18

EUR    346 116

12

Frederick Ronald WILLIAMS(1927-1982)

9

10

EUR    343 496

7

John Cecil BRACK(1920-1999)

10

12

EUR    283 323

27

John Henry OLSEN(1928)

11

5

EUR    277 614

62

Charles BLACKMAN(1928)

12

21

EUR    253 413

7

William Francis ROBINSON(1936)

13

19

EUR    182 122

12

Lloyd Frederic REES(1895-1988)

14

42

EUR    172 299

8

Tracey MOFFATT(1960)

15

46

EUR    157 302

25

Hans HEYSEN(1877-1968)

16

13

EUR    153 736

23

Robert Henry DICKERSON(1924)

17

54

EUR    132 290

4

Rupert BUNNY(1864-1947)

18 

25

EUR    113 232

19

Timothy Austin STORRIER(1949)

19 

16

EUR    111 577

33

Ray Austin CROOKE(1922)

20

8

EUR    109 477

6

Russell DRYSDALE(1912-1981)

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