Menzies Art Brands

Menzies October 31 Auction Wrap Up


When a painting exceeds its estimate it's always a good thing, and when it breaks a record it’s a very good feeling for the auctioneers as well. I can’t remember a painting that caused such universal pleasure as My Armchair, by Brett Whiteley. The vendor was pleased, the owner’s adviser also pleased, Rod Menzies, very pleased, the buyer and his agent, very pleased. I was pleased. I understand Wendy Whiteley was pleased. I would imagine the Tax Department were pleased. I think the only person not pleased was the owner of The Olgas for Ernest Giles, which we sold in 2007 for $3.48 million, at the time the record for the art market and until last week Whiteley’s record. Being the owner of a record holder is pleasing so losing that status would have been a sad moment.

My Armchair was a popular painting, the many, many people who came to the viewing loved it, although many of the oohs and ahhs should also be credited to the house where it was hanging. The large and bright painting created a special mood and energy in Stonington Mansion and it transformed our Sydney gallery in Todman Avenue as well.

The painting was the highlight of a good auction which achieved an overall strong result of $8,638 million (including buyer’s premium). Other personal favourites were the beautiful and sophisticated but tiny Arthur Boyd lot 36 Figures and Tent 1974-6. It belongs to a group of miniatures painted when Boyd first began his long engagement with the Shoalhaven River. These paintings, which were exhibited at Australian Galleries and Fischer Fine Art in London, have always done well, often because they are supported by dealer Denis Savill. They are small (31.0x22.0 cm), finely painted (reportedly with a single-hair brush) and consistently sell above estimate – one having made in excess of $100,000. The bidding was not as strong on this example, with the lucky bidder uncontested after $68,750 (inclusive of buyer’s premium).

One of the more spirited bidding contests was left until the end of the sale when the penultimate lot number 102 Sali Herman’s Street Scene, Sydney 1949 attracted bids from around eight collectors in the room and on the telephone. The somewhat coy estimates were exceeded quickly and the painting was finally knocked down to a bidder in the room for $37,500 (including buyer’s premium). We are not accustomed to seeing this artist’s work selling for more than $15,000, however the combination of the early date, beautifully resolved subject, the presence of Herman’s trademark cat plus a dog, and several figures added up to a classic.

In general terms the sale was a great hit and may mark a turning point for Menzies. The success of Stonington Mansion as a viewing facility, and the fact that owners of paintings clearly like the idea of their paintings being marketed in its galleries, confirmed that we shall see more Menzies sales viewed there and the auctions taking place in Melbourne.

Tim Abdallah, Head of Art

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