Sotheby’s May 09 Australian Art Auction Review pt 2 - australianartmarket.com After the success of Sotheby’s sale of the Ken and Rona Eastaugh Collection the expectations of a successful sale for the Important Australian Art catalogue the following night (May 5) were high
News-Antique.com - May 30,2009 - Sotheby’s May 09 Australian Art Auction Review pt 2
After the success of Sotheby’s sale of the Ken and Rona Eastaugh Collection the expectations of a successful sale for the Important Australian Art catalogue the following night (May 5) were high. Although the catalogue had a nice selection of highly desirable works there were also quite a few obscure works by less desirable artists that left me feeling slightly concerned. There were plenty of people in attendance on the night but not as many as I would have expected. However, considering that Sotheby’s were conducting two separate auctions on concurrent nights it wouldn’t be fair to expect everyone to attend both auctions. A total of 43 works sold from the 73 on offer leaving Sotheby’s with a 59% clearance rate which isn’t all that impressive. What was impressive was the sale total which finished up at $2,844,900 ($3,413,880 with buyers premium). When compared with the mid estimate of the sale which was $3,801,000 the one million dollar lower sale total looks less rosy but the comparison I am making, and the one that matters most, is the comparison with other sales.
What a low clearance rate and a high sale total always suggests is that there were a few very expensive works that drove up the total which is exactly what happened. Considering the catalogue was comparatively small the sale total was undoubtedly a success, however, the success of the auction really came down to the performance of four works. This fact doesn’t diminish what Sotheby’s achieved but does provide important information about buyer sentiment and market trends. The highlight of the sale was the extremely important colonial sketchbook (circa 1817-1840) of paintings and sketches by Edward Close depicting various scenes from around New South Wales. A bidding war saw the total reach a staggering $750,000 (hammer price) against an estimate of $400,000-$600,000. It was later revealed that the winning bidder was the State Library of New South Wales who obviously had deeper pockets than the National Library who were the underbidder. Another colonial era painting of Campbell’s Wharf by Conrad Martens achieved the third highest price of the night selling for $480,000 against an estimate of $300,000-$400,000. A major work by Charles Blackman titled ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’ that had great provenance and an extensive exhibition history claimed the second highest price of the night selling for $600,000 against a $500,000-$700,000 estimate. Brett Whiteley’s rather appealing sculpture of a pelican was the fourth of the higher priced works to sell but only managed to reach $190,000 against a $200,000-$250,000 estimate.
The total sale price for just these three works totaled 2,020,000 and was just over 71% of the total value of all the works sold which shows how fine a line there was between success and failure. Had Sotheby’s not sold the three works with the highest estimates things would have been rather different because the 3rd, 5th,6th,7th and 8th most expensive works failed to sell including Russell Drysdale’s