Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Low Take-Off

It was always going to be a tricky sell. A life-sized glossy painting of a half-naked, female Arab terrorist lobbing a grenade and video recording the result isn't the sort of image most people want on their living room walls. A couple of days before the auction, corporate art adviser who was in the market for one of my larger works told me that she couldn't recommend her clients to bid for it: "I love the work," she said. "But it presents real difficulties for them in the current environment."
Dangerous Career Babes: The Terrorist
is one of my favourite paintings. I took it hard when I heard it was up for sale barely a year after I'd completed it. I was also surprised that the auction house, Menzies Art Brands, agreed to take it on: they usually discourage sales of works less than five years old, no matter who the artist is, largely because canny bidders will tend to "grind the price into dust". Like fine wine, a painting should have a little age and history before it goes under the hammer.
It didn't help that the seller was, in sale-room parlance, 'motivated'. I suspect the reserve for the work was low and this, along with its young age and confronting subject matter, encouraged the auction house to set what I thought was a modest pre-sale estimate of $A10,00 to $A15,000 – not even half what another of the Dangerous Career Babes, The Aviator, achieve a little over a year ago in a sale of Australian art at Christie's in London.
I expected the worst.
In the end, it didn't turn out too badly. My works have established a solid track record at auction over the past couple of years, reflecting a rational, 'organic' growth in the prices achieved. Despite the notable absence of corporate money and a couple of enthusiastic collectors from S.E. Asia and the Gulf states, there were enough interested buyers to drive the price up to within a few hundred dollars of the high end of the pre-sale estimate. It sold for a total price of $A14,640.
An earlier, smaller work of mine, Buck (100cm x 150cm enamel on board) sold at the same session for $A 8,540. This was in the middle of Menzies' pre-sale estimate range – but three times more than the amount paid when the work was first sold through a Brisbane gallery in 2001.
A final note: I was the youngest female artist – by a decade or more – to have works included in the auction. However, I'm pretty sure that's the one thing bidders didn't give a toss about.


Barbara J Carter said...

I'm glad to hear that "The Terrorist" sold well. I always thought it one of your best pieces. Very topical, timely, and of course highly provocative. Good stuff!

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Wallflower said...

That's awesome. Congrats!