Neglected artform shaping up for saleroom success

By James Cockington | The Sydney Morning Herald | Money | Wednesday 18 February 2015

Geoffrey Bartlett Dancer # 4

For sale at Shapiro auctioneers in Sydney next week is a one-owner collection of 35 works of Australian contemporary sculpture.

It is rare indeed to see collections of sculpture for sale, especially ones concentrating on modern pieces by local artists. Most work at this sale was created post 2000, with the exception of some older pieces by Lyndon Dadswell, a pioneer of the modern movement.

The collection was assembled by a passionate private collector over a 15-year period. The items were bought mainly from local galleries and featured inside his Point Piper home in Sydney. The vendor is now moving to a smaller apartment and needs to downsize.

Some of the artists featured include Ron Robertson Swann, Geoffrey Bartlett, Campbell Robertson Swann, Brian Willsher, Blaze Krstanoski-Blazeski, Michael Le Grand, Nicole Grech, Nigel Harrison, Linde Ivimey, Dave Teer, Laurie Miller, Jennifer Johnson, David Bromley, Jaroslav Prochazka, Rosemary Johnson, Ingrid Morley, Geoff Ireland and Brian O'Dwyer. These are hardly household names, even in fine art circles, a situation that also applied back in 1964 when the Recent Australian Sculpture Exhibition was first held at the National Gallery of Victoria.

This was seen as a milestone event.

"If there ever was, before this one, an exhibition of Australian sculpture to tour the state galleries, it must have been a long time ago," wrote Gordon Thomson in the catalogue notes.

"It is therefore opportune to review sculpture, which stands virtually neglected among us."

The artists virtually neglected then are the ones most likely to appear on the secondary market today. An early piece by Clement Meadmore is on the cover of the 1964 catalogue. Fifty-one years on his later streamlined style appears regularly at auction, although the work of the next generation of sculptors is still rare and neglected.

Lyndon Dadswell Wallscape 1970

The collector has already sold his Meadmore as a means of testing the market. He's not necessarily expecting to make a profit on the collection, and says that the Shapiro estimates are around one third to half of what he paid for the pieces in the pre-GFC days.

This is a common tactic now adopted by auction houses who want to attract bidders. The hope is that low estimates are more likely to attract multiple bidders who then push prices well above reserves. That's the theory, in any case. The vendor is hopeful that this will happen but says that fellow collectors in the current climate should factor in the enjoyment they have derived from the work as part of its overall value.

"Let's say that even if there is no significant appreciation over the years due to abnormal economic circumstances, one could be tempted to acquire them for the pleasure of living with these wonderful artworks at a very low cost," he says.

As an example, a $500 work enjoyed over 10 years equates to a very affordable $50 per annum, or less than $1 per week. This is much less than a lot of material belongings in any household.

Allowing for the enjoyment depreciation factor, there's still a good chance of anyone returning at least a proportion of the capital investment, perhaps even a chance of a decent profit in some cases.

If so, this will be a bonus for the Sydney collector. He initially planned to donate the collection to a public art gallery. Working in his favour is the growing awareness in sculpture as an art form, prompted largely by Bondi's Sculpture By The Sea and similar public festivals. More people now want a sculpture on display inside their homes, or in a courtyard. Architects often include one as part of their designs.

Micahel Le Grand Albertos Dreaming 2003

Relative to British and international contemporary sculpture, the Australian equivalent is regarded as untapped and undervalued, as the Shapiro estimates suggest.

As someone who has lived with these objects for 15 years, the Sydney collector has grown to love them, seeking out a range of materials including stone, wood, brass, and bronze. His initial theme was to have one piece from each of the artists he admires. He says it's the 3D quality of sculpture that most appeals to him.

Read the SMH article online here

Illustrated catalogue online here


Contemporary Art and Sculpture

Wednesday 25 February 6pm

Woollahra Hotel Function Room

116 Queen Street, Woollahra, Sydney

On View

Saturday 14 - Wednesday 25 February 11am - 5pm

Shapiro Auctioneers and Gallery

162 Queen Street, Woollahra, Sydney