Antipodeans old and new carry hopes at end-of-year sales

Elizabeth Fortescue, Australian Financial Review, 1 November 2023

Australia’s two biggest art auction houses are shaping up for the painterly equivalent of a heavyweight championship, as buyer enthusiasm for expensive art objects remains apparently undented by this year’s succession of official interest rate hikes.

Major end-of-year auction sales by rivals Smith & Singer and Deutscher and Hackett will be held in Sydney on November 21 and 22 respectively. Both sales will present works that have never come to auction and whose art history significance is indisputable.

Deutscher and Hackett will offer six works by Yvonne Audette from the Victorian-based abstract artist’s personal collection.

In the catalogue essay, former National Gallery of Victoria and National Gallery of Australia director Gerard Vaughan writes that, when he first saw Audette’s paintings in about 2000, he was “blown away by their powerful presence, the sheer quality of her painting method, and their inherent ability to provoke in the viewer an emotive response, as music does”.

“The group of works being offered by Deutscher and Hackett are among her very best, all of high museum quality, and retained until now for personal reasons,” Dr Vaughan writes.

“At 93, she feels the time has come to make them available to a wider audience.”

Audette’s Different Directions, 1964, in oil on plywood, has the highest estimate of the six works, at $120,000 to $160,000.

Another stand-out feature of the Deutscher and Hackett sale is a group of 10 paintings by Ian Fairweather from the 1930s and 1940s, well before 1953 when the artist moved to Bribie Island in Queensland and became a recluse. 

The catalogue includes Cornsifting, Soochow, 1945-47, a motif from the time Fairweather spent in China. The work in gouache and pencil on paper is estimated to fetch between $80,000 and $120,000.