The heavily-promoted cover work, Mrs McCubbin Picking Blossoms was put to auction by Rodney Adler who has recently divested a number of high-profile artworks inherited from the family collection, achieving a result just below the lower limit of pre-auction estimates. With pre-auciton estimates sitting at $1,200,000-$1,600,000, the Frederick McCubbin work reached a hammer of $1,046,760 coming to $1,342,000 inclusive of the 22 per cent buyer’s premium. Although a positive result for the hard-up Rodney Adler – it once again reinforces the superiority of the contemporary-art trading market to that for modern and impressionist works. Contemporary Australian art offer far more in terms of market depth, the potential appreciation value of important artworks and offers far more liquidity for collectors and investors alike.
There were a number of positive results seen in the Contemporary Australian offering. Tim Storrier saw two two sales on the night for unimportant paintings, the first an older, smaller work – Her Garden at the End of the Hall 1989, which sat between pre-auction estimates of $10,000-$15,000 selling for $14,640 inclusive of buyer’s premium. The second Storrier sold (again a smaller work) was The Engonia Fire 1993, which sold just above estimates at $15,860 inclusive of buyers premium. Storrier’s market remains strong as always, with the strongest and most significant of his works commanding prices far beyond those seen at Mossgreen’s auction last night.
Interestingly, at the lower end of the prices realised – there was significant interest in a smaller work by George Raftopoulos. Raftopoulos’ Li Cello had estimates of $2,000-$3,000, and in the end achieved a price of $3,660 inclusive of buyer’s premium. This work saw a number of bidders all being for this work, and competition was particularly stiff for a work at this level. Paintings of a more premium oeuvre by George Raftopoulos are generally between $15,000-$30,000. Yet this signals a strong demand for George’s work at all levels, indicating that paintings at the upper-end will appreciate in the near future to match a consistently growing demand for the artist’s work.
Unsurprisingly, a number of lesser works by well known artists remained unsold – with bidders either failing to show interest, or refusing to match the reserve price on works. This included a number of works on paper by Brett Whiteley amongst others. One of the take-aways from this auction appears to be the quickest way to fail in art investment is simply to rely on an artists name. When acquiring artwork whether for you collection or investment – selecting the best examples of an artist’s work is equally important as selecting the artist themselves.
There were several pieces of Aboriginal fine art in the catalogue all achieving positive results, and given the overall auction performance perhaps Mossgreen should have included more pieces by big hitters in the Indigenous market. Notably present was an ochre work by Rover Thomas, Untitled which well outperformed pre-auction estimates, of $18,000-$25,000, selling for $31,720 inclusive of buyer’s premium. There was also an Emily Kame Kngwarreye (the first Aboriginal artist to break the million dollar auction ceiling) which was of a similar oeuvre as another work successfully sold at auction earlier this year, Untitled 1994 with pre-auction estimates of $30,000-$50,000 achieving $36,600 inclusive of buyer’s premium. Rover Thomas and Emily Kame Kngwarreye because of reputation as pioneers of the Aboriginal art movement and market constriction continue to see strong price growth in both their secondary trading markets. That said, the examples included in this sale were very weak pictures by these artists, they were not quality paintings. Overall the Aboriginal offerings at the sale saw a positive reception and multiple bidders for all works, indeed the Rover Thomas saw heated competition amongst various parties. The take-away from last night is again the emergence of green-shoots in the Aboriginal art market for those artists sitting at the top of the market.
Image: Tim Storrier, The Engonia Fire 1993, 82x62cm