Strong sale of ceramics break the mould

By Peter Fish | The Australian Financial Review | Saleroom | Thursday 17 April 2014


There were signs of life in the normally subdued market for Australian and International ceramics at Shapiro’s sale of 20th and 21st century design, posters, art and ceramics in Sydney’s Woollahra early this month (April 2), with Australians Stephen Benwell and Hiroe Swen faring well. Managing director Andrew Shapiro, who has been fostering sales of modern ceramics and glass for many years, said he sees the strong reception for the offering as a turning point, with participation from an “enormous number of private collectors”.

A Stephen Benwell stoneware pot decorated with an abstract design in blue fetched $2760 including buyer’s premium, compared with an estimate of $400 to $600, while a Benwell stoneware vase with a swirling abstract pattern brought $1800, as did his large ceramic urn with geometric decoration. A stoneware pot by Japanese-born Swen, The Tidal Wave, 50cm wide, brought $6240.

Wares by Britain’s Dame Lucie Rie collected by Sydney University biophysicist professor Alan Walker, who died in October, were well received, with a 1970s trumpet vase selling for $7200 and a three-piece stoneware coffee setoff similar vintage at $6000. The star of a large designer furniture offering was a pair of bulbous leather 1970s Le Bambole chairs by Mario Bellini, which tripled the lower estimate at $10,080.

There were some surprising prices for what appeared to be simple brown wooden furniture, with an oak bedside table with fluted drawerfront fetching$2160 (estimate $200 to $300) and a low chest of drawers with iron fittings $4560 ($500 to $700). The attraction was that the furniture was designed and made by prominent Melbourne modernist designer and ANU lecturer Fred Ward, and commissioned for various homes by Lord and Lady Casey.

Among the Aboriginal art, an untitled work by Nyurapaiya Nampijinpa from the Alan Walker collection brought $3600 but an untitled Willie Ryder Tjungurrayi failed to sell on a $10,000 to $15,000 estimate.