Super fund puts $9m collection on the block

Gabriella Coslovich, Australian Financial Review, 25 May 2022

It’s shaping up as the year that major corporations “let go” of their multimillion-dollar art collections as they reshuffle their priorities.

Just months after National Australia Bank put its $10 million cache of art on the market, superannuation fund Cbus has announced it, too, will divest itself of its entire art collection in a sale expected to raise more than $9 million.

The 30-year-old Cbus Collection comprises 310 works, with top-tier Australian artists from the colonial to the contemporary represented, including Eugene von Guerard, Arthur Streeton, Sidney Nolan, Russell Drysdale, Margaret Preston, Rosalie Gascoigne, Jeffrey Smart, Howard Arkley, Fred Williams and Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula.

While NAB redirected the proceeds from its art sale to its philanthropic arm, the NAB Foundation, Cbus is selling to reinvest in other assets. The asset restructure follows Cbus’ recent merger with Media Super, the superannuation fund of the media, entertainment and arts industries.

In a written statement, Brett Chatfield, Cbus deputy chief investment officer, said: “As part of the ongoing active management of the portfolio, Cbus acquires and disposes of assets with a focus on maximising risk-adjusted returns for our members. To get the best outcomes for our members we are now offering the collection for sale.”

The clear winner is auction house Deutscher and Hackett, which will put the Cbus Collection under the hammer over four sales, starting with a live auction of 100 highlights in Melbourne on July 27. The most expensive work in the sale is Nolan’s Crossing the River, 1964, with an estimate of $550,000 to $750,000. Three online-only sales will follow in August, including one dedicated to Aboriginal art. Deutscher and Hackett was also the auctioneer for the February sale of the NAB Collection highlights.

 “It will be a big year,” Deutscher and Hackett’s co-executive director, Chris Deutscher, says. “There are still these collections out there that we think will never come up for sale, and the next thing they are up for sale.”

Deutscher and Hackett will sell most of the Cbus collection, bar 12 works that are either low value or that don’t conform to the company’s strict policy of only selling Indigenous art with clear provenance to an art centre or an artist’s primary dealer.