Nothing out of Favour in a Settled Art Market

Buyer confidence returns

At the Leonard Joel Fine Art auction on Monday evening buyer confidence and interest was pronounced across all collecting periods and the room was left in no doubt that bidders knew what to pay, confident that art pricing had now settled. A full room, spirited bidding and a high proportion of $10,000 plus sales confirmed this renewed art price stability.

From traditional to contemporary
From traditional through to contemporary “fresh to the market” lots were the focus of the evening. Norman Lindsay’s The Warriors, lot 52, provided a strong start for the traditional painters and this rather large scale and figuratively restrained work by Lindsay standards realised $36,600 (IBP). And as if to confirm that there will always be a connoisseur for a rare work in any market, lot 59, Blamire Young’s large scale work just seven lots later realised $26,840 (IBP) against a low estimate of $16,000. The result was one of the highest prices ever paid for a Blamire at auction and signalled a renewed interest in the artist’s work after the publication of the definitive book on the artist by Stephen Marshall. The sale of lot 192, also by Young, with a very theatrical Egyptian narrative confirmed this enthusiasm when it sold for more than six times its estimate for $7930 (IBP). Equally, the moderns maintained their popularity with the cover lot by Ray Crooke, lot 62, selling well above its low estimate to sell for $25,620 (IBP). Fine contemporary was also in demand with Bill Henson’s untitled and typically haunting interior work, lot 230, doubling its low estimate and selling for $10,370 (PBP).

Surprise Lots
Lot 120 by Emanuel Phillips Fox was in every sense the “sleeper lot”. This portrait of a sleeping infant rendered in Fox’s signature sublime greens and pinks was in need of significant restoration with paint loss throughout the work. Despite its “project” nature the painting realised ten times its estimate and sold for $13,420 (IBP). And Horace Trennery’s  fetching Still Life, lot 6, offered another image verso of the artist painting in his studio. Like its double feature, the painting doubled its upper estimate selling for $19,520 (IBP).

Plucked from our Thursday Antique & Interiors Auction
Not an auction goes by without an interesting international work presenting itself for research and marketing. A 17th century panel in fine condition by Mathys Schoevaerdts, lot 156, enjoyed telephone bidders from around the world and finally sold for $24,400 (IBP) against a low estimate of $8,000.

Just Curious
Refreshingly, it is not always price and fame that drives collector interest at an art auction. Sometimes it’s just that mix of obscure artist, period and subject matter that generates lots of discussion and debate. Lot 164, a moody 1930s work by the Belgian artist André Tahon, of a robed model in a studio setting was just such a lot. The question repeating itself during the viewing was “is the sitter a man or a woman”? No one could really decide but it was ambiguous enough to set collectors tongues wagging and finally sold for more than four times its estimate for $3,538 (IBP).

Family portraits
Toward the end of the auction two early period works by Rick Amor, from his period heavily influenced by Brack, sold well above expectations. Lots 220 and 221, a self portrait and a portrait of Amor’s father realised $15,616 (IBP) against a combined low estimate of $3,500.