Exhibitions prior to major art auctions can be a wonderful way to view works by significant artists that may not have been seen for decades. The forthcoming Sotheby’s sale (28 August) is a case in point. The sale is billed as Important Australian Art and so it is: 67 lots, many of them really excellent, by big name artists. The catalogue cover picture, Brett Whiteley’s Harbour (Grey Day) (1978) has not been seen publicly since it was first sold; it has an upper estimate of $3,000,000. More recent is Farewell (2004) by Archibald winner Del Kathryn Barton, held in a private collection since first sold by her early champion, Ray Hughes, now with an upper estimate of $350,000. A lovely impressionistic painting by Ethel Carrick Fox: In Sydney Botanical Gardens (c1949) is being auctioned for the first time with an upper estimate of $60,000. Another appearing for public sale for the first time is Arthur Boyd’s Drowned Bridegroom (1959) although it has been shown in seven notable exhibitions; upper estimate of $1,900,000. A luscious Margaret Olley Basket of Oranges (1964) is being offered for sale for only the second time; upper estimate of $60,000. Almost brand new is Cressida Campbell’s beautiful Wheat Fronds and Sky (2016) shown only in Berlin last year; upper estimate $120,000. My favourite is Grace Cossington Smith’s luminous modernist Fruit in the Window (1957) which belongs to her much- acclaimed late interiors. It comes to auction with distinguished provenance and upper expectations of $250,000.
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