Our Centum contemporary art auction exceeded all expectations in its online auction on 5 May. 
The excitement and fast pace of an auction can often mean that little thought is given to the
works after the hammer falls. So here are three works and personal favourites that I think are
worth another look:

Lot 32 John Olsen
Estimate of $50,000-70,000, sold for $80,600 IBP

There’s an outdated preconception that works on paper are somehow less valuable or less important than paintings. The two mediums permit very different freedoms, and it is in works on paper that John Olsen lets his hand run most free. When talking about his free-flowing lines, Olsen once said “I take the line for a holiday…The line says ‘move me this way’, and I say ‘Yes? Really? Okay’…then it says ‘No, little bit that way’, ‘All right, I’ll move you that way. We’ll participate’.”

When a good work presents itself, the medium should not determine its value, and this was certainly the case for Torres Strait 2006. Having been in one collection since being acquired from John directly, the work encouraged a few free hands itself – a bid here, another that way, no now a new bid back there, all right a bid online, let’s all participate!


Lot 12 Mark Whalen
Estimate of $1,600-2,400, sold for $2,976 IBP.

This Mark Whalen gathered a lot of attention in Centum. Its intricate gridded design and pop of neon pink edging was sure to catch anyone’s eye! What is unusual is that the work is two-dimensional. Whalen is often recognised for his sculpture, however his transformation of objects into witty and abstract musings of human folly extend beyond the medium making this distinction nearly obsolete. My favourite part of this work is the figure at the bottom, with its arm creeping over the edge to take a peek or perhaps the next to join in in the succession of figures “taking notes”.   

Lot 18 Jenny Watson
Estimate of $5,000-7,000, sold for $9,300 IBP

Jenny Watson has discussed influences from 1970s culture and even punk music. My mind goes back to her incredible retrospective that toured here in Melbourne to Heide where punk music was playing overhead as you moved through the exhibition. Her works are somewhat autobiographical, recalling ideas and dreams of a typical suburban girl like a visual diary. Her use of fabric, as though taken from a child’s set of bed sheets, provides the “backdrop”, and her pretty-in-pink ballerina takes centre stage. At first glance, she appears to recall the dreams of a young girl. But then that punk music comes overhead again and she could almost be someone dressed for a gig, complete with a stare reminiscent of Courtney Love’s punkish rebellion.


7 May | The Financial Review | Inaugural Auction Defies Pandemic