Aussie Picasso Sale Overrated – artmarketblog.com
Here in Australia, the average art auction by one of the major auction houses will usually result in about AU$6,000,000 worth of sales so what do you think would happen if an artwork was sold at auction in Australia that was estimated to sell for AU$7,000,000?. Australian entrepreneur Rodney Menzies who, among other things, is the owner of one of Australia’s most successful auction houses, Deutsher Menzies, is selling a painting by Picasso from his own collection in an auction being held by his own auction house. The painting, titled “Sylvette”, is a particularly appealing portrait of a young Spanish woman by the name of Sylvette Davie who Picasso met in 1953 . As well as being a nice example of Picasso’s work, “Sylvette” also has good provenance which further adds to the appeal of this work. Plenty of people have been questioning the decision by Rodney Menzies to sell his Picasso in Australia through his own auction house but as far as I can see, Menzies has made a smart decision that can benefit both his business and himself. Several media reports on this sale suggest that Menzies would have achieved a better price selling the work overseas but while this may have been the case 20 years ago, modern technology has . The amount of marketing Rodney Menzies has done to promote the sale of this Picasso work will ensure a high level of international interest especially because of the current demand for quality works by Picasso and other modern masters. If Menzies can successfully sell the Picasso through his own auction house he stands to receive considerable international media exposure and a greater reputation for his business which would be of much greater value to Menzies than the slightly higher sale price the work might have achieve if sold overseas.
To suggest that this sale is some great test of the Australian art market, as some people have, would be extremely naive considering that works such as this Picasso are in high demand all over the world and also because of the relatively low value of the work compared to what is being sold in New York and London etc. If a painting worth $30 million was sold in Australia to an Australian buyer then I would certainly be inclined to believe that the Australian art market had evolved but a $6 million work sold to an international buyer doesn’t really get me all that excited. All that the successful sale of this work would suggest to me is that there is still plenty of demand for quality works by blue chip artists such as Picasso. As far as I am concerned, the geographical isolation of Australia will not have as much of an effect on the successful sale of this work as people might think. I am sure that there are plenty of very wealthy people all over the world who are more than willing to pay what would to them would be a relatively insignificant sum of money for a work sold in Australia that they may not have actually seen in the flesh. I would be very surprised if this work is not sold and even more surprised if it is sold to an Australian.
Other people have suggested that the successful sale of such a valuable work in Australia will do wonders for the Australian art market but, once again, I think that an assumption such as this is extremely naive and premature. Even if “Sylvette” does sell to an Australian, I do not think that there will be any change to people’s perception of the Australian art market or any change in people’s perception of Australian art buyers. Once again, all the sale of this work would indicate is that there is still demand for high quality works, nothing more. What do you think?
Update: Piacsso’s “Sylvette” has sold for $6.9 million including buyers premium to what is rumoured to be an international buyer.
image: “Sylvette” by Picasso
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.