The stars of the Australian art market were realigned after the blockbuster sale of a large Brett Whiteley screen on Thursday evening for $ 5 million plus a hefty buyer’s premium.
It only took five minutes after an opening bid of $ 4. 5 million for the large painting called Henri’s Armchair to find a new owner.
The new owners are a family from Sydney’s Lower North Coast who have not yet agreed to reveal their identity.
The sale sets a new record price for an Australian artwork at auction of $ 6. 136 million, including the buyer’s premium calculated by the auction house.
The previous record auction price was held for 10 years by Sidney Nolan’s first-class Marksman, who was bought by the Art Gallery of NSW through the same auction house in Sydney, Menzies, for $ 5 in 2010. 4 million.
Henry’s armchair is nearly 2 meters high and 3 meters long and was put up for sale by Elizabeth Evatt, widow of defamation attorney and art dealer Clive Evatt, who died in 2018.
Ms. Evatt said before the auction that she hoped a public institution would buy it so that many people could enjoy it.
« If I split up with Clive two years ago, it’ll be a giant wrench, » she said.
The painting has been loaned to many exhibitions over the decades, including a period on display at NSW’s Brett Whiteley Studio art gallery.
Before the auction at 7:00 p.m., Ms. Evatt spoke in socially distant seats to around 30 people who had gathered to witness the sale of just one work of art.
She said her late husband stopped by the artist’s Lavender Bay home one day on his way home from the races.
He arrived to find Whiteley angry because the gallery that commissioned the painting had asked him to remove the burned matches and drug paraphernalia on the coffee table in the picture – otherwise they would cancel the order.
Mr. Evatt, who started his own art space, Hogarth Galleries and ran it for many years, offered to buy the work.
He led Whiteley to his car, opened the trunk, and showed a huge supply of cash which he said were his winnings off the track.
The couple took the money, took it in and counted it, and the sale was sealed.
Mr Evatt enjoyed telling the story with the kicker, who the gallery later called back saying they had changed their mind – but Whiteley could tell they had missed their chance. It was sold.
« This has been an amazing year for the art market. It took us all by surprise. We expected the worst when COVID hit, « he said.
« I thought if we could go through the year without laying off employees, it would be a success, » he said.
The art market has risen due to low interest rates, the inability of art collectors to travel, and the boom in home renovations and decorations.
This painting is attractive not only because of its size, but also because it is from the artist’s « Lavender Bay » collection.
It was painted a year before Whiteley won the Archibald Prize (the first of two times).
The artist’s ex-wife, Wendy Whiteley, who controls his fortune, said ahead of the auction that she hoped for a good result.
« I’m not involved in this at all and there is absolutely no way I can afford to buy it, » she said.
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Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan, Australian Art, Australia
World News – AU – At $ 6. 136 million, this painting just became the most expensive Australian work of art to be sold at auction
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