Two Lackluster Sales and They’re Already Talking About Survival
Australia is home to no less than 8 fine art auction houses. That’s a pretty crowded market for a nation of 20 million. Last week there were two sales with weak results prompting The Australian to wonder who might survive a shakeout:
Long-time art dealer Denis Savill said yesterday: “There are a lot of people doing auctioneering. This probably begs the question: is there enough cake for everyone? I would say, probably not. There is room, soon, for one guy to go missing. Don’t ask me who’s going to go, but someone’s going to get the stitch. There are a lot of high bills that need to be paid.”
Just don’t expect that someone to be Rod Menzies, the owner of two of the eight houses and a focus of The Australian‘s coverage:
He is also holding on tightly to his company’s position as the No1 art auction house. This position was confirmed by the Australian Art Sales Digest, which lists MAB as 2007 market leader with close to $65million of art sales last year, followed by Sotheby’s with $51.5 million. The 2007 art market total was $171 million, the highest year on record. But it’s a different scenario now. This week’s three auctions at Sotheby’s, Bonhams & Goodman and Deutscher & Hackett returned a combined on-the-night sales figure of just $14 million, 30 per cent down on conservative pre-auction predictions.
But Menzies has his own strategy that he expects to keep his companies on top:
He is also committed to a bold new strategy of offering works by important international artists to the Australian marketplace. At June’s Deutscher-Menzies auction, a Picasso owned by Menzies achieved an Australian record when it sold for $6.9 million (including auction house commission) to an undisclosed US collector. “It’s a historic day for Australia in the sense that a very significant international picture by the greatest artist of the 20th century was sold at an Australian auction for a record price,” a jubilant Menzies said after the sale.
With the success of the Picasso, Menzies is trying the tactic again in September with a Bonnard and a Warhol:
As well as selling the 1985 Warhol work, titled Head After Picasso, which Menzies bought in New York earlier this year for an undisclosed amount, he is also offering another New York acquisition: Bouquet de Cheminee, painted by French artist Pierre Bonnard in 1913. The Bonnard carries an estimate of $1.1million to $1.4 million, while the Warhol is expected to fetch $1.5 million to $2 million. The combined total sales estimate for the D-M and L-M auctions is $12 million to $16 million.
The Menzies group, he reiterates, is in it for the long haul and the strategy of buying international paintings and bringing them back to sell through D-M’s auctions is central to this ideal. “We were very successful with the Picasso and we will be advertising the major international works we have in this forthcoming sale extensively overseas,” he says. “We will want to appeal to the national and the international market, so it’s appropriate that there’s a mix of international product at the top end as well as national product at the top end.”
Slump in Sales Leaves Art Auctioneers Hanging (The Australian)
Menzies’ Plan of Auction (The Australian)