In scenes redolent of market boom times, it was standing room only at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney as the greatly anticipated Laverty Collection of contemporary Australian indigenous and non-indigenous art went under the hammer with Bonhams on Sunday March 24, 2013.
The mood was electric as more than 300 people crammed into the MCA's Foundation Hall, for the epic, almost five-hour long auction. Among the high profile bidders in the crowd was the unmistakable figure of School Education Minister and former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett.
The auction total of $5.05 million (including buyer's premium) revived confidence in the market and established the Laverty Collection as the most successful contemporary art sale held in Australia. Clearance rates defied the current market trend – 86.5 per cent of the 266 works on offer were sold, and the clearance by value was 84 per cent.
With 398 registered bidders, 239 of those in the room, competition for works was robust, resulting in at least nine major new artists' records – five of those for indigenous artists.
Within half an hour of the auction starting, the day's first new artist record was set and greeted with rounds of applause. Peter Upward's October Still, from 1962, sold for $136,620 (including buyer's premium), more than three times its lower estimate, demolishing Upward's previous record of $21,358 (including buyer's premium). The result would have pleased the late Dr Colin Laverty, whose collecting urge was sparked in the 1960s by abstract painters such as Upward, Tony Tuckson and Michael Taylor.
Other major new records included:
Doreen Reid Nakamarra, Untitled (Rockhole Site of Marrapinti), 2006, $30,500 including buyer's premium (previous record $10,755);
Aida Tomescu, Albastra III, 2002, $74,520 including buyer's premium (previous record $36,600);
John Mawurndjul, Mardayin Ceremony, 1999, $111,780 including buyer's premium (previous record $90,227);
Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Untitled (Rain Dreaming at Nyunman), 1994, $219,600 including buyer's premium (previous record $210,000).
Dick Watkins, The Mooche, 1968, $113,460 including buyer's premium (previous record $33,400);
Paji Honeychild Yankarr, Jila Japirnka, 2002, $47,196 including buyer's premium (previous record $7800);
Ildiko Kovacs, Boot, 2004, $89,424 including buyer's premium (previous record $29,280);
Jan Billycan, Kirriwirri, 2007, $99,360 including buyer's premium (previous record $19,200).
Bonhams chairman in Australia Mark Fraser said: "The outstanding success of the Laverty auction shows that exceptional collections continue to perform well. The result marks a great start for Bonhams in 2013 and augurs well for the company's next big single-owner sale, the Reg Grundy and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, to be held in Sydney in June."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com