The Art Gallery of NSW spent almost $4 million acquiring four Australian paintings from the recent Grundy collection auction, paying well above the auctioneers’ highest estimate in all cases.
Two works by the late John Brack and one by the late Joy Hester, both Melbourne artists, and a fourth by the late Sydney artist Frank Hinder cost the gallery a total of $3.85 million, including auction fees.
The most expensive of the acquisitions, Brack’s The new house, painted in 1953, went under the hammer for $1.6 million; for a total including auction fees of $1,952,000.
The New House 1953, by John Brack, was bought for $1,952,000 by the Art Gallery of NSW.
It carried an earlier estimate by auction house Bonhams of $1.1 million to $1.3 million.
Sydney art dealer Denis Savill said the gallery clearly wanted to get another Brack into its collection, with works on the market in short supply, but had missed earlier opportunities to snap up works by the artist at a lesser price.
The gallery also bought Brack’s The breakfast table, painted in 1958, which carried an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. When the Art Gallery of NSW paid $1.2 million under the hammer ($1.464 million including the premium) there were gasps from the auction audience.
The Art Gallery of NSW paid $170,000 under the hammer ($207,400 with premium) for Joy Hester’s Figure with scales, painted in 1957. The Bonhams estimate had been $80,000 to $120,000.
By comparison, the Art Gallery of Western Australia snapped up the other Hester sold at the Grundy auction, Mad girl, for $85,000 – $103,700 including premium – which was well below the estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
The fourth painting, Frank Hinder’s Tram kaleidoscope, painted in 1948, sold above the $100,000 to $150,000 estimate, for a premium $231,800.
All four acquisitions are now on display at the gallery and Tram kaleidoscope will be a part of the Sydney moderns exhibition which opens on Saturday.