It was perhaps the painting’s subtle political content and its Chagall-like symbolism that appealed to Praeger, born in 1915 into a family of Viennese book publishers. Following the annexation of Austria by the Nazis in 1938, Praeger was arrested and sent to prison. After his release from prison, he immigrated to the United States. Other members of his family remained in Austria and died in Auschwitz.
As The New York Times reported in a 1994 obituary, Praeger borrowed $4,000 from friends to set up a large publishing house in Manhattan “that brought many Western readers their first incisive views of life under Communism”. Among the society’s famous publications was Russian dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch (1963). Praeger also published books on art and architecture, and in 1958 entered into an exclusive contract to publish and distribute books for the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Smith speculates that it is likely that Praeger acquired Boyd’s painting through his association with the arts and publishing, including Boyd’s representative in London, the Zwemmer Gallery. Boyd’s painting arrived in Australia from the estate of Praeger’s late wife, Kellie Masterson, and received an estimate of $350,000 to $550,000.
The auction cover lot is worth much more than that and could cross the $1 million mark. It’s Lush and Flowing by Brett Whiteley View of Bali, painted at the height of the artist’s power, from 1976 to 1978. With a vibrant palette of warm oranges and contrasting greens, yellows and blues, Whiteley pays an unmistakable tribute to his hero Vincent van Gogh. The painting is also unambiguously “Whiteley” with its view of the tropical Balinese landscape framed through a window, a motif Whiteley used in several of his paintings of Sydney’s Lavender Bay. When View of Bali Last auctioned 33 years ago, at Christie’s in Melbourne, it fetched $48,000 (hammer), the equivalent today of around $107,000. His current estimate is $800,000 to $1.2 million.
The sale also features two works by leading contemporary artist Del Kathryn Barton which are on the secondary market for the first time. The more expensive of the two is the beautifully exaggerated painting we will ride, from 2014, featuring a rather cosmic kangaroo with joey as a cover. The kangaroo’s fur is striped like a tiger’s and its tail exuberantly resembles that of a snake; in short, a hybrid creature born from Barton’s typically wild imagination. The kangaroo stands amidst a quintet of giant waratah flowers against a starry sky backdrop. It is an immense work, measuring 260 cm high by 199.5 wide, and which was presented at the Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria from 2014 to 2015. Writing about the exhibition in 2014, arts journalist Andrew Stephens explained that the painting was inspired by Barton’s experience of living in the bush as a child, 40 kilometers away from the nearest town.
As Barton told Stephens at the time: “Whenever I’m out in the bush at night, it’s really dark. It’s dark in a deep, deep way that takes you psychologically to a much deeper place, dream-wise.
The hallucinatory painting is on the market with an estimate of $200,000 to $250,000.
Barton’s second work in the sale is similarly surreal in nature, but minimal in style. Atop a tall concrete plinth stands a small tree-like shape with a straight pink trunk. The foliage of the tree is formed by many small bronze hands. cleverly titled Feel on the pinkthe 2016 sculpture has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.
Remaining in the realm of the contemporary, the great and striking work of Julie Rrap Persona and Shadow: Puberty, 1984, refers to a painting by Edvard Munch in a critique of the representation of women in art history. Another example of this edited work was shown in Part 1 of the National Gallery of Australia’s groundbreaking exhibition Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900-Present. Black-smith & Singer sells Edition 6 of 9 with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
Saleroom previously noted the curiously meteoric rise of artist Jordan Kerwick on the auction scene this year, with 17 paintings up for sale since March. Do That 18 as Smith & The singer offers still life Afraid of everything, 2019, with an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 next week. Menzies’ November sale also features two Kerwicks, bringing the year’s total to 20, for an artist whose works only started appearing at auction this year. Deutscher and Hackett remains the only major Australian auction house not to entrust Kerwick’s works – but the company’s co-executive director Chris Deutscher remains diplomatically silent on his reasons for not buying into the Kerwick frenzy .
As Australia’s leading auction house, Deutscher and Hackett can afford to take a step back and watch the Kerwick market move.
Of note, two of Kerwick’s three still lifes that recently appeared at Leonard Joel have been passed on, while the third sold for its low estimate of $20,000 (hammer). Kerwick’s bidding record is US$277,200 ($380,179), for shell The Tiger2020, sold at Sotheby’s New York in March.
Kerwick has publicly expressed concerns about the prices his paintings have fetched at auction, telling the Sydney Morning Herald in August: “It’s not good for me in the long run because if there’s an oversupply in the secondary market, the demand in the primary market goes down, and then I find myself doing work that no one else wanna “.
Smith says he only accepted one of Kerwick’s paintings offered to him for sale: “I had to decide and I didn’t want to show off too many of them and they are of varying quality.”
“With each artist, you have to be selective,” Smith says. “Not all works are created equal and when you start to treat each work by its size rather than its quality, the market does not react.
In all, Smith & Singer’s latest art auction of the year features 55 lots and a total estimate of $4.7-6.8 million.