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What's happening in the Art Market? October Newsletter

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

It's been a busy few months in the art world both domestically and globally. The winners of the Archibald and the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards were both announced. Over in London a major Australian Aboriginal art auction made headlines, while back home in Australia new records have been broken for some of Australia's most well known names. We are seeing further signs of growth in all areas of the art market. As you may have read in our previous newsletters and other material, the fine art market has seen consistent consecutive years of growth, which has continued throughout 2016. If you would like to gain a greater understanding of the information below or on the asset class in general, please don't hesitate to contact us on 1300 55 74 73 or register here and reference 'investment'.

Domestic Auction Market The Figures

  • Sales of art at auctions in Australia this year to date was $82.74 million. As a comparison, at the same date last year total sales were $72.53 million which represents a 14% increase in sales volume YTD. Market liquidity is also performing well with transactions volumes up 5.4% YTD.

  • Sotheby's ($23.8M) and Menzies ($22.9M) are neck and neck based on sales turnover YTD, with 3 months to go and some big auctions ahead it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. * Sourced AASD


The iconic Sydney Harbour painted in 1907 by Arthur Streeton is the most expensive painting sold this year thus far for $2.07M at Sotheby's in August. Charles Blackman, Sydney Nolan & Arthur Boyd are the most traded artists this year so far. At the same auction at Sotheby's, Howard Arkely's, "Mod Style" sold for $646,600 including buyers premium topping his previous record set in 2014 of $463,600.

At the same auction at Sotheby's, Howard Arkely's, "Mod Style" sold for $646,600 including buyers premium topping his previous record set in 2014 of $463,600.

Archibald Winner Ben Quilty also recorded new high price at the Deutcher Hackett sale for "One Big One", 2005 which sold for $97,600 including buyers premium.

How do we compare?

'Growing and Undervalued'

The continuing strength of the Australian market is also set to break into the TOP 10 biggest art

markets globally. With sales of just over $50M AUD in the first half of the year, Australia may well be

set to join the big boys ladder.

The table below outlines by country total fine art auction turnover in USD and market share for the

first half of 2016.

The Global Art Market

A Brief Guide Defying all forecasts China returns to the leader position overtaking the US in the first half of 2016 with 18% increase in auction sales. Low supply of masterpieces (works over $10M) has had an impact on global turnover yet activity remains strong (90% of art sold globally is under $50,000). As a result the Art Market Price index is down vs Jan 2015 but gained 10% in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

The Aboriginal Art Market

On September 21st in London, Sotheby's held a major Aboriginal Art Auction in London, the artworks vary from exceptional early Aboriginal artefacts, to contemporary art by current stars such as Tracey Moffatt, Emily Kngwarreye and Walimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Following many prolonged bidding battles, six Aboriginal artists achieved record breaking sales: A new auction record was set for a work by any living aboriginal artist when Michael Nelson Tjakamara's Five Stories, 1984, sold for £401,000 (AU$ 687,877), more than doubling the pre-sale high estimate of £150,000-200,000. Offered from the Gabrielle Pizzi Collection, Five Stories is considered the most iconic work of modern aboriginal art, and is possibly the most published and exhibited work by any indigenous Australian artist. Benedict Palmeiua Munkara's Male And Female Figures of Purukapali and Bim, executed on Bathurst Island in the 1960s, soared to £251,000 (AU$430,566), far in excess of the £30,000- 50,000 estimate and setting a record for an aboriginal sculpture at auction. Warlimpirringa Tjapaltjarri's untitled painting from 2007, which more than doubled pre-sale expectations to sell for £167,000 (AU$286,473) (estimate: £50,000-80,000).

'Untitled' Acrylic on Belgian Linen, 183cm x 244cm Warlimpirringa Tjapaltjarri c1959

Overall, the auction achieved £1.6m (AU$2.8m), representing a 55% increase in value from last year's inaugural Sotheby's Aboriginal Art sale in London. The auction represents another landmark sale for Aboriginal art, highlighting the strong overseas demand for artworks from this contemporary movement and culture.

'Five Stories' Synthetic polymer paint on canvas,121cm x 182cm Michael Nelson Tjakamarra

Some other important Aboriginal Art sales & auctions of note

  • Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art Auction, Deutscher and Hackett, Melbourne, May, 93% by value and 75% clearance.

  • Important Australian and Aboriginal Art incl. The Collections of Amina and Franco Belgiorno- Nettis and Thomas Vroom, Bonhams, Sydney, June, 110% by value and 86% clearance. Kathleen Petyarre 'Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming (After Sandstorm)' painted in 1996 sold for A$73,200 IBP at Bonham's which is her second highest auction result to date.

Major Domestic Awards

Archibald, Wynne Prize 2016

The biggest portraiture prize in the southern hemisphere was announced at the Art Gallery of NSW

last month.This year's Archibald went to Louise Hearman for her portrait of Barry Humphries. The

artwork reportedly took years to paint and nearly "killed" the artist in her own words during the


A collaborative indigenous artwork took home the Wynne Prize which was this year painted by five

sisters from the Ken Family titled "Seven Sisters".

This year 6 times Archibald Finalist Jason Benjamin was nominated surprisingly only for the first

time as a finalist in the Wynne Prize with his 30.5cm x 30.5cm, oil on linen "I fell behind and you

waited for me". The work was received well by the judges and reaffirms the old adage that size really does not matter.

Another nominee which we note is senior aboriginal artist George "Hairbrush" Tjungurrayi was also nominated as a finalist now for third time in Australia's most coveted landscape prize.

The 2016 Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award

Northern Territory artist Harold Thomas (Bundoo) is the winner of Australia's most prestigious Indigenous art prize for 2016.

Judge's Comments:

"Harold Thomas's Tribal abduction tells of the 'part destruction of an Aboriginal family'. The potency of the subject matter coupled with Thomas' practiced hand and classical composition make the work a compelling choice this year. The tension and anger in the work is contrasted with the dread and fear often espoused in accounts of 'stolen' children. Particularly, the painting depicts the violence present in the act. It also speaks to the legacy of generational trauma and this positions the work both as an affecting history painting and a blazing commentary on the ongoing manifestations of colonial brutality. This winning work by Harold Thomas presents a raw truth which provides space for cathartic reflection."

Corporate Art Rental News

What We Offer

Many of our clients enjoy receiving impressive rental returns from the artworks that they own. Often far better rental returns than they may achieve with their other asset holdings. This is achieved via our corporate rental programme through the leasing of the artwork purchased with the help of Art Index. For almost a decade Art Index has proven to be a leader in the corporate rental market, giving Australian businesses to artworks from highly recognised artists, while saving them the outlay and commitment of the asset. While continuing to grow our corporate connections locally here in Sydney, we are now due to demand, 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

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 for your favourite department store just in time for Christmas!

WIN a $12,000 Fine Art Portfolio It's that time of year again! Last few weeks to register for this year's $12,000 fine art portfolio competition, the draw will be held on the 31st October and the lucky winner will be contacted by phone and email with their name announced on our website. For your chance to win fill out your details on this form and reference 'Competition'.

Good Luck Everyone!


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