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January 2018 Newsletter | What's happening in the art market?

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

JANUARY 2018 NEWSLETTER It's official. 2017 was the year in which Australia broke into the top ten of International art markets for the first time. So while we're certainly not going to take anything away from the new year which we gently usher in - far from it, we look forward to great things in 2018. We can't help thinking we should pause for a moment and reflect on some 2017 highlights. With twists, turns, achievements and controversies, the Art market both domestically and internationally was quite the show. Domestically, the fine art market recorded its second biggest year ever at the Australian auctions. Most notably, the average price of paintings sold at auction increased by a very impressive 33%, from AU$15,028 in 2016 to AU$19,918 in 2017. In addition turnover increased to $141 million compared to last year's $106 million. Internationally, a rare Da Vinci appeared at Christies New York, achieving a mind-boggling new auction world record with his work 'Salvator Mundi' coming under the hammer at a staggering $US 450 million. If that wasn't enough, an untitled work, created by 80's poster boy Jean-Michel Basquiat, set a new high for an American artist, achieving $US 110.5 million.

If you would like to gain a greater understanding of the asset class in general, or any of the information below, please don't hesitate to contact us on 1300 55 74 73 or register here and reference 'Investment'.

Domestic Auction Market - The Figures

Total sales at Australian fine art auctions this year was $141 million. This result makes 2017 the second biggest year ever and represents a 33% increase on last years sales volume. Liquidity remained steady with 19,000 artworks listed with an average clearance rate of 65%.

Deutscher & Hackett and Sotheby's Australia topped the market with a sales turnover of

$37.04M and $37.01M respectively. *Sourced AASD


2017 will be recorded as a year of new highs. Our much loved and acclaimed Australian artist Russell Drysdale, gained a new auction record with an iconic work titled 'Grandma's Sunday Walk' (pictured below). The piece, painted in 1972, just before the artist lost his eyesight, was the most expensive painting sold at auction last year. It reached nearly $3 million at a Mossgreen Auctions in Adelaide cementing this artist as one of Australia's greatest.

Sidney Nolan also achieved his 2nd highest auction result for 'Ned Kelly - Outlaw', 1955, selling for $2.56M and Eugene Von Guerard's 'Mr John King's Station', 1861, a classical masterpiece, sold for nearly double its estimates at $1.95M at Sotheby's in August.

More records tumbled when Charles Blackman reaffirmed his 'most valuable living Australian artist' status, when 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' 1956, (pictured left), sold for $1.8m at Sotheby's in November.

Modernist painter Albert Tucker's 1946 image of 'Modern Evil 29' (pictured below) sold for $1.16M also a new record for the artist.

Many on the sidelines have believed Tucker's body of work, although critically acclaimed, was perhaps undervalued on the secondary market so some would concur that this breakthrough to the $1 million club is long overdue.

Albert Tucker (1914-1999) is one of the most important Australian artists from the decades following the Second World War. He belonged to the Angry Penguins group of artists, active at Heide in the 1940s, and reinvigorated and re-mythologised the Australian landscape through an uncompromising modernist approach.

Also worth a mention is one of Australia's current most highly regarded abstract artists Dale Frank, who continues his consistent rise with another new auction record, this time coming from over the pond in New Zealand. The work (pictured below) sold for AUD $86,639.

Our 2016 Prediction

Looking back to December 2016 we reflected on the continuing strength of our growing local market and its position globally, which may also be possibly undervalued. Based on 2017's first half figures reported by, not only did the local market break into the international TOP 10 but may even top South Korea, Japan and Austria. Once final global EOY figures are released, we will confirm our exact market position.

The table below outlines by country, the total fine art auction turnover in USD and market share for the first half of 2017.

The Global Art Market

Globally, the international Fine Art market of 2017 was nothing short of spectacular! Hot on the heels of Jean-Michel Basquiats' work 'Untitled' 1982, of which Sotheby's achieved $US 110.5 million (a record high for an American Artist), followed the staggering record sale of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi'. The work, with a pre-sale estimate of $US100 million and selling through Christies New York, defied all expectations, eventually selling for a breathtaking $US 450 million (AU$572M) and in doing so changing, as some suggest, the art landscape irreversibly. 'Artprice' has predicted that we are now entering a new and profound period, whereby the market itself will definitively change its price scale, thus stimulating the appetites and interest of dealers and collectors alike. It suggests that it's also a testament to the pulling power of Art that more institutional galleries and art museums opened between January 2000 and December 2014 globally, than did so throughout the entirety of the 19th and 20th centuries combined. It revealed that roughly 700 new art museums are being built every year on 5 continents, each with at least 4,500 artworks. Artprice predict this massive expansion of the global museum industry coupled with more private investors entering the market will inevitably lead towards spectacular new auction results and increasing values. Numerous sales are expected to generate auction results in excess of $US 1 billion, most notably the forthcoming sale of David and Peggy Rockefeller's quite outstanding collection this May in New York. It is worth noting that as we watch the Art market become more efficient, more mature and more liquid, we may also witness unheralded, exciting, and hopefully lucrative times ahead.

The Aboriginal Art Market

It was another strong and steady year for Aboriginal art. Based on the average price of paintings sold at auction it recorded its best year since 2013. However there were some notable highlights which confirmed the continual re-surging support of this market when top quality works appear for sale. An extraordinary painting by the late Aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye sold for $2.1 million (pictured below), smashing the record for the highest price achieved at auction for an Australian female artist. This also equals the highest price ever paid for an Aboriginal artwork (without buyers premium) and it's also the third most valuable artwork sold at auction in 2017.

A number of Aboriginal artists achieved record breaking sales. 'Urban' Aboriginal artist Lin Onus', 'Riddle of the Koi', 1994 (pictured below), sold for $512,400 (Deutscher and Hackett in May).

At Deutscher and Hackett's final sale for the year in Melbourne, Ronnie Tjampitjinpa almost doubled his auction record with 'Wilkinkarra (Lake Mackay)', 1993 (pictured below), selling for $154,000. The estimate for this work was $40,000 - $60,000.

Major Domestic Awards

Figurative painter and cartoonist Mitch Cairns won the 2017 Archibald Prize for his portrait of his partner and fellow artist Agatha Gothe-Snape (pictured below). Once again, the Archibald sparked controversy with veteran artist John Olsen not pulling any punches, calling this year's winner, "just so bad". The 89-year-old former winner and three-time judge of the country's best-known portrait prize commented "I think it's the worst decision I've ever seen" prompting many on the sideline to ask the age old question, what is the Archibald without controversy.

Popular comedian, writer and talented artist, Anh Doh, took out the People's Choice award with his portrait of actor Jack Charles (pictured below).

Wynne Prize 2017 Winner: Betty Kuntiwa Pumani Sir John Sulman Prize 2017 Winner: Joan Ross Doug Moran Prize 2017 Winner: Tim Storrier


Tommy Watson (Aboriginal Artist) Ray Hughes (Legendary Art Dealer) Alun Leach-Jones (Painter, Printmaker) Sydney Ball (Abstract Painter)

Corporate Art Rental News

Many of our clients enjoy receiving impressive rental returns from the artworks that they own. For over a decade now, Art Index has proven to be a leader in the corporate rental market, giving Australian businesses access to artworks from highly recognised artists, while saving them the outlay and commitment of purchasing. While continuing to grow our corporate connections locally here in Sydney, due to increasing demand, we are now looking to expand more than ever into Australia's other major cities.

Corporate Rental Referrals Can Now Benefit You!

If you know of an organisation that could benefit from our corporate rental service or be interested in having some of Australia's most iconic works of art on display, please let us know by clicking here and referencing 'Appreciation' or simply email

In return, as a thank you from Art Index, upon completion of that referral, you can choose from either a complimentary 12 month membership to your local state gallery or a $250 voucher from your favourite department store!

Finally, Congratulations to our

2017 winner of our $12,000 Art portfolio,

Ms L Gelson.

Click here to find out how to generate 6-9% pa income by leasing this beautiful and tasteful investment to corporate organisations.


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