Another painting with a decidedly Australian theme, Del Kathryn Barton’s We Will Ride, 2014, a huge work featuring a cosmic kangaroo and joey, sold for $380,000 (hammer), almost double its low estimate of $200,000. (Smith & Singer apply a buyer’s fee of 25 per cent of the hammer price inclusive of GST). Julie Rrap’s self-portrait in the format of a Munch painting, Persona and Shadow: Puberty, 1984, sold for $35,000 (hammer), more than three times its low estimate of $10,000. Gertrude Fenton’s portrait of an Aboriginal woman, Black Emily, from circa 1880, sold at its low estimate of $15,000 (hammer).
Other significant results included Ethel Carrick Fox’s Esquisse en Australie (Sketch in Australia), 1908, which sold for $200,000 (hammer), more than double its low estimate of $80,000.
“There was really powerful bidding,” Smith says. “There was broad interest from across the board, ranging from public institutions, seasoned collectors and first time buyers.”
However, Jordy Kerwick’s Scared of Everything, 2019, estimated at $40,000 to $60,000, failed to sell. Was it something we said?
In total, Smith & Singer’s 55-lot sale made $4.9 million (hammer) with 82 per cent of lots sold by number and 105 per cent by value.
With the auction year almost at an end, fresh and noteworthy works keep coming to market. The first five lots in Deutscher and Hackett’s sale in Melbourne next Thursday night are all new to auction, chief among them a classic Howard Arkley painting of a suburban house, as well as works by Jeffrey Smart, Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, and Brett Whiteley.
Arkley’s High Fenced, 1996, a ripper of a painting two-metres high by one-and-a-half metres wide, has been in the same London private collection since 2000 and was exhibited by Tolarno Galleries at Art Cologne in 1996. With an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000, it’s the most valuable artwork in a sale that spoils for choice.
Whiteley’s sculpture, Giraffe No. 1, 1964-65, is of particularly historical and cultural significance. Edition one of four, with an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000, it too hails from a London private collection – the three other editions are all in the collection of the Brett Whiteley Estate in Sydney.
The edition being sold by Deutscher and Hackett was exhibited at Whiteley’s ground-breaking show at the Marlborough New London Gallery in 1965. Highlighting the audacious talent of the then 26-year-old artist, the Marlborough exhibition juxtaposed Whiteley’s London Zoo works with his macabre and confronting Christie murder series of paintings and drawings. Talk about a challenging if not incongruous mix. In her catalogue essay Kelly Gellatly, former director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, draws a connection between the two, writing that the animals “provided a positive counterpoint to Christie’s depravity and evil, yet the pent-up energy contained within their physical forms and their appearance, at times behind the wires of a cage, highlight their role as sentient beings and humankind’s complicity in their ongoing confinement.”
Standing almost two metres high, Whiteley’s tall, thin, bronze giraffe pays clear homage to the work of Alberto Giacometti. Other editions of this sculpture have been widely exhibited, most recently at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Baldesson/Whiteley Parallel Visions from 2018 to 2019.
From the same London collection comes another important Australian work, instantly recognisable as the creation of Rosalie Gascoigne, made from weathered and sawn Schweppes soft drink crates arranged on plywood. The work, Beaten Track, 1992, has an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. The last time it came up for auction in 2005, at Christie’s in Sydney, it sold for $320,000 (hammer).
Two years ago, Deutscher and Hackett sold an irresistible painting by the Australian Impressionist Iso Rae, a rare inclusion at auction and hardly a household name, even though she studied at the National Gallery School alongside Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts and Jane Sutherland. The work, Young Girl, Etaples, c. 1892, set a new high for Rae, selling for $200,000 (hammer) more than seven times its low estimate of $30,000. The National Gallery of Victoria bought the painting, paying a total of $270,000 (including buyer’s fees).
On the strength of that sale, Deutscher and Hackett has been consigned another work by Rae, also fresh to the market. Rae’s Tricoteuse (A Knitter), c. 1909, estimate $40,000 to $60,000, shares the same gentle light and humanist feel that made Young Girl, Etaples so appealing. It has been in the same French family since its creation and has not been on view in Australia until now.
Deutscher and Hackett’s turnover this year has been dramatically boosted by the sales of big corporate art collections, namely those of the National Australia Bank and superfund Cbus. In a smaller corporate offering, credit rating agency S & P Global has consigned eight works by Lin Onus, all fresh to the secondary market and originally acquired from Melbourne’s respected Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi. The highlight is Onus’s Malwan Pond – Dawn, 1994, with an estimate of $180,000 to $250,000.
The auction also features works from the admired Laverty Collection, many on the secondary market for the first time, including paintings by leading Indigenous artists Sally Gabori, Paddy Bedford, and Emily Kame Kngwarreye. There’s also a dynamically eerie landscape painting by Peter Booth, who has a survey exhibition opening this weekend at the TarraWarra Museum of Art in Healesville, an hour’s drive east of Melbourne.
In September, Deutscher and Hackett brought Bauhaus-trained German-Australian Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack to the attention of collectors and set a record for the artist’s bold abstract painting Red, Grey and Orange Composition, 1935. In this sale, Deutscher and Hackett is presenting works completed by Hirschfeld-Mack while he was detained as a so-called enemy alien at New South Wales’ Hay and Orange internment camps, and Tatura in Victoria.
His drawings of fellow detainees and their living conditions are poignant records of innocent people caught on the wrong side of history, and remain starkly relevant. Among the most potent is the 1941 woodcut Desolation, Internment Camp, Orange, which has an estimate of $2000 to $3000.
The sale is on view at Deutscher and Hackett’s Melbourne gallery from today until next Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s auction.