Australian Art Sacrificed for Cezanne – artmarketblog.com
The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia is selling two major works by two Australian artists from it’s collection to raise the remaining funds needed to purchase a painting by Cezanne titled “Bords De La Marne”. Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Edmund Capon, is the driving force behind the purchase of the work for AUD$16.2 million from a Swiss private collection which will be the most expensive work ever purchase by a gallery in Australia. Having committed to purchasing the work without having all the funds available, Capon and the gallery have had to do everything that they can to raise the extra funds in a hurry and have been begging for donations at every opportunity.
The two works being sold to help fund the purchase are “Balmoral” by Brett Whiteley’s and “Pleasure Craft” by John Perceval both of which are very important works by two of Australia’s most important artists. Apparently the benefactor who donated the pieces has given his blessing to the sale which is all very nice but what would the artist’s think and what would their opinion of the sale be if they were alive today?
It was expected that the price paid for both works at the auction, which took place on the 24th of November, would be considerably lower than if they had been sold six months ago and as predicted, this was the case. The Whiteley sold for $990,000 and the Perceval sold for $198,000 which was considerably less than each of the paintings would have sold for a year ago. Capon has even admitted that this is not the ideal time to be selling works of art at auction. By selling these works during a slump in the art market for a lower price it would seem that the sale of these two works has the potential to have a negative effect on the value of the work by both artists which would not reflect well on the gallery.
What concerns me the most is that the Cezanne is being purchased to mark the 30th anniversary of Edmund Capon’s directorship of the gallery. The reason that this concerns me is that two important works of Australian art are being sacrificed in what seems to be a last ditch and desperate effort to secure a work by a non-Australian artist. The whole saga raises the question of whether the gallery has jeopardised the value of the work of two Australian artists just to ensure that Capon gets his anniversary trophy. According to Capon the sale of the two Australian works is not an act of desperation but there is the potential for the market to still perceive the sale to be an act of desperation even if it isn’t. Regardless of the reasoning behind the sale of the paintings I doubt that any artist would want their work to be sold under such circumstances.
I agree that a work by Cezanne will fill a hole in the galleries collection and that Bords De La Marne does seem like a good buy but considering the economic climate and the circumstances in which the work is being purchased, I question whether the purchase of Bords De La Marne at the current time is such a good idea. Capon is quoted in an article from the Sydney Morning Herald as saying “Our timing is obviously not ideal, but there is a degree of urgency from the gallery’s point of view – we simply have to pay for the Cezanne,” If the gallery is that short of funds then should they have committed to purchasing the work in the first place or should they have waited for a better time to make such a significant purchase?
**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.