Menzies Art Brands March 09 Art Auction Review On the 25th of March I attended the Menzies Art Brands auction at their Sydney office. As the first auction I was attending for 2009 I was rather excited to see exactly what the outcome would be
the $250,000 to $300,000 estimate. The Streeton work has had a rather interesting market history having had just as many different titles as rapper Sean Combs (aka. Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy). As well as “The Giudecca Lagoon”, Streeton’s lovely Venice scene has also been sold as “La Saulte, Venice” and “Sun Girdled Queen”. The most recent sale of this work was in July 2006 when Lawson Menzies extracted $350,000 against an estimate of $200,000-240,000 which suggests to me that the vendor was a bit ambitious with the reserve. $420,000 would have been a good price in this climate. Robinson’s “Tweed Valley Rainforest Ridge and Beechmont” was last sold in March of 2008 when it fetched $260,000 against an estimate of $260,000-320,000. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the Robinson work and the estimate was reasonable so the failure of this work to sell is most likely just a case of wrong place, wrong time.
A good example of the value of provenance was the sale of Sidney Nolan’s “Kelly I” which sold for $105,000 against an estimate of $58,000-$68,000. What is so special about this work is that it comes directly from the Estate of Sidney Nolan in the UK. Although the work it’s self is not all that spectacular the chances of obtaining a work that was being put on the market for the first time by the estate of Sidney Nolan are very slim. Hence the great result.
For me, the star of the show was David Larwill’s epic 2005 Fairweatheresque oil titled “The Story Grows as the Story Goes” which measures a colossal 2 metres by 5 metres. The $180,000 sale price against an estimate of $100,000 - $140,000 is still a bargain in my opinion for what I believe is a work that belongs in the National Gallery as an example of the amazing work that Australia’s contemporary artists are producing. “The Story Grows as the Story Goes” achieved a new auction record for Larwill’s work and more than doubled the previous auction record set in 2004.
Overall, the Menzies Art Brand March 2009 auction brought in a total of $4,636,225 which as a lone figure seems quite good but, when you compare it to the total auction estimate of almost 7,500,000 (total of mid estimate of all works), the sale total seems a little less positive. When you add the fact that 121 of the works that sold were sold for less than the low estimate (65 sold within the estimate and 22 sold for above the high estimate) the result seems even less rosy.
One of the things that the results of this auction tell us is that people are still willing to spend good money on works that have a particularly rare and desirable feature or characteristic. In other words, if a similar work or a work with similar attributes is unlikely to be available again any time soon, or ever, then buyers will pay good money. The lack of any million