Auction confidence continues in Australian art market

Arthur Boyd’s Moby Dick Hill sold for $1.2 million at Sotheby’s Australia’s Sydney August 16 sale and became the third highest priced work at auction for the artist.

Sotheby’s Australia chairman Geoffrey Smith said the result was a testament to the genius of an artist who, following World War II, encapsulated the urgency and vitality of an Expressionist style that contributed significantly to the history and development of 20th century Australian art.

“This result represents the continued strength and confidence in the Australian art market,” he said.

A ground-breaking painting from the late 1940s, Moby Dick Hill was awarded equal third prize in the inaugural Dunlop Australian Art Contest.

Boyd’s 1972 painting Landscape and Dam also generated strong bidding and at $195,200 almost doubled its high estimate of $100,000.

Ninety-seven works were offered at the auction and the sale realised $11.3 million with a clearance rate of 125.4 per cent by value.

Emmanuel Phillips Fox impressionist masterpiece Monastery, San Lazzaro (1907) debuted at auction and set a new auction record for the artist of $1,061,400 – almost doubling his existing record.

The painting had been held since 1908 in the Abrahams family collection and only reappeared in 2011 when it was exhibited at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane.

William Dobell’s The Narrow Beach 1956 sold for $280,600 on a high estimate of $200,000.

Long considered one of his finest efforts, Dobell created the painting for Frank and Thelma Clune in recognition of a “lost” work stolen years earlier from an exhibition and never recovered.

Sydney modernist Brett Whiteley continues to attract strong auction prices for his works and this sale was no exception.

The Drought Crow: Sloping Up on the Olgas I (Up Front and Outback) 1984-85 changed hands for $1,024,800 – the third highest auction price on the night.

Magnolia Tree in the Rain sold for $585,600 against a $400,000 high estimate following frenetic bidding and In the Bottom Park at Lavender Bay there is a Jacaranda and Gardenia Tree 1984-85 for $793,000 ($650,000-$850,000).

Russell Drysdale’s Boy with a Lizard changed hands for $536,800 towards the top end of its catalogue estimate ($400,000-$600,000).

An exceptional example of his compositions from the mid-1960s, the painting captures the essence of inland Australia inspired by Dobell’s four months of travel across Western Australia’s central desert and Kimberley regions in late 1958.  

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