Australian Superfund Cbus Will Liquidate $9 Million Australian Art Collection

Michael Irwin, Ocula, 15 July 2022 

Australia's Construction and Building Unions Superannuation fund (Cbus) will begin auctioning off its entire art collection, worth an estimated AU$ 9 Million on 27 July.

Totalling 280 artworks, the Cbus collection spans 160 years of Australian art. Featured works range from the 19th Century colonial landscapes of Conrad Martens and Louis Buvelot to modern and contemporary painters like John Olsen and Robert Jacks, and Aboriginal artists like Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

The top lot is one of Australian modernist Sidney Nolan's 'Ned Kelly' paintings, Crossing the River (1964) (pictured top), with a high estimate of AU $800,000. Well-known Australian landscape painter Russell Drysdale's The Fossicker (1949) is expected to bring in up to AU $400,000.

Other notable works include early 20th century landscapes by Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin; pieces by mid-20th century modernist exponents Arthur Boyd, Godfrey Miller, and Fred Williams; Margaret Preston's Coastal Gums (1929); and small, playful, precisionist urban landscapes by Jeffrey Smart, including Children Playing (1965) which is expected to reach up to AU $300,000.

New Zealand-born Australian artist Rosalie Gascoigne, Lasseter's Reef (1993/1996–97), made in her signature style with retro-reflective road signs, is estimated to reach the AU $200,000 mark.

Established in 1992, the Cbus collection was the brainchild of Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE and Professor Bernard Smith, who approached the industry-focused superannuation fund with the idea to invest in Australian art. Brown would oversee the building of a collection of Australian Indigenous, colonial and 20th century representative art until the final purchase in 2007.

As a condition of his involvement, Dr Brown required that the artworks in the collection be loaned indefinitely to selected regional galleries for the benefit of the fund's members and the public.

For 15 years the Latrobe Regional Gallery in Morwell, Victoria, has overseen the dissemination of the Cbus collection to the general public through exhibitions and distribution among the collections of public galleries in Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, Broken Hill, Gippsland, Bendigo, the Mornington Peninsula, and Tasmania.

'This partnership has had significant benefit for Latrobe City and other regional centres, giving access to Australian artworks of a calibre that can usually only be seen in State and National collections,' said Mayor of Latrobe City Council Kellie O'Callaghan.