Sotheby’s organizes a major sale of indigenous art in New York

To add a few names, one of the most famous American collectors of Australian Aboriginal art is actor and comedian Steve Martin, while pop star Beyoncè and her husband Jay-Z have also acquired works by Australian Aboriginal artists.

“At this stage, no major blockbusters have been consigned, but that could change,” says Klingender.

Sotheby’s had planned to hold the sale in October, but the pandemic pushed the auction back to December 4. While last year’s auction was live, this year’s will be a timed online sale, in line with Sotheby’s significantly increased online presence.

In March, Sotheby’s began to ramp up online sales as cities around the world fell into lockdown. In the first seven months of this year, Sotheby’s achieved more than 180 online sales, bringing in $285 million, a 540% increase over online sales in the same period last year.

After holding its dedicated Aboriginal art auctions in London from 2015 to 2018, Sotheby’s moved the sales to its global headquarters in New York last year to tap into a resurgent market and take advantage of newly refurbished and expanded galleries in the society.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Summer Celebration, 1991, sold at Sotheby’s Aboriginal art auction in New York last year for US$480,000 (hammer), the second highest price for the artist at auction.

“I had always hoped that Sotheby’s would one day establish Aboriginal art sales in New York, and it turned out that London was the perfect springboard,” says Klingender.

At the New York sale last year, the bestselling work was by Emily Kame Kngwarreye summer celebrationwhich sold for US$480,000 (hammer), the second highest price paid at auction for the artist’s work.

“Emily’s market has never been stronger,” says Klingender, noting that the artist was named by Artsy-net as one of the most influential of 2019, along with Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, Nan Goldin and Olafur Eliasson.

Klingender has consigned several small paintings by Emily for the upcoming sale in New York and is in discussion on some major works by the artist.

“Not outdated yet,” Klingender told Saleroom.

At Leonard Joel, last week’s Important Jewels auction in Sydney – the first held by new jewelery specialist Hamish Sharma – could be described as a dazzling flop, with just 40 lots out of 134 sold, or around 30% .

Marketed as a $5.7-7.6 million auction, it only fetched $1.03 million (hammer) and the lot, an 18-karat gold ring with a bright yellow diamond of 9 .02 carats, estimated between $700,000 and $900,000, was not sold.

But Sharma, who was poached from rival firm Smith & Singer, accentuated the positives and celebrated the record set by a 17.34-carat emerald-cut diamond that sold for $460,000 (hammer). (Leonard Joel charges a 25 percent buyer’s premium).

“I’m ecstatic about it,” Sharma said. “It is the highest price paid for a jewel at auction in Australia. There was never any question of numbers in this auction. I was looking for feedback. It was an opportunity to present magnificent jewelry and whet the appetite.

The 17.34 carat emerald cut diamond ring set in platinum which sold for $575,000 at Leonard Joel Auctions in Sydney on Wednesday August 26, 2020. A new Australian record.

Judging by the numbers, there is still a lot to do. Sharma’s main disappointment has been not being able to visit jewelery in Melbourne, where many of the society’s wealthy collectors live, due to the city’s Stage Four lockdown.

Despite the less than stellar results of what some observed was essentially a trade sale, Sharma boss Leonard Joel’s general manager John Albrecht had no regrets about his new signing.

“I’ve never looked at jewelry auctions from a sell rate perspective,” Albrecht said. “What’s important to me is the hammer and my budget. I told Hamish we wanted to see a $3 million hammer in jewelry sales in his first 12 months. For him to achieve a million dollar sale in the seven weeks since he started with us is extraordinary, it really is, and we are excited about the record set.

Industry rumors have it that a member of the Packer family shelled out for the 17.34 carat diamond. Any truth there? Albrecht didn’t say, “I can’t confirm buyer’s details or seller’s details.”

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