The Australian Art Auction Market - Statistics for 2008

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Statistics from the Locker 227 database of Australian art auction records for the 2008 calendar year. Includes the top prices, the top artists by sales volume and total prices, and the biggest surprises of the year - the artworks and artists that exceeded the estimated prices.

Locker 227 has released its inaugural annual statistics on the Australian art auction market for 2008, which shows a mixture of both predictable and surprising results.

The top 20 prices for individual artworks has the usual splattering of works by Brett Whiteley, Arthur Boyd and John Brack, although Brett Whiteley could only manage 8th place this year with 'Balmoral' selling for $990,000 compared with his top placing in 2007. That honour, as well as 2nd place this year, went to Russell Drysdale with 'Rocky McCormack, 1962-63' ($1,800,000) and 'Country Child, c.1948' ($1,680,000) taking out the number 1 and 2 positions respectively. Ethel Carrick Fox was a surprise inclusion at number 7 with 'Market Under Trees' selling for 1,008,000, a new record for the artist.

When looking at quantity, sometimes at the expense of quality, no one could come close to the prolific Pro Hart, who topped the list of the Top 20 Artists by Sales Volume with 161 paintings sold. Rounding out the top 3 were Sidney Nolan and Ray Crooke with 82 and 70 sales respectively. Elizabeth Vassilieff was an interesting inclusion at number 13 with 43 sales, although 42 of those were sold from her estate at the Bonhams and Goodman auction in May.

Arthur Boyd took out the number 1 spot on the Top 20 list of Artists by total sales price with sales of $6,664,087, well ahead of Russell Drysdale on $5,279,869 and Fred Williams on $3,959,005. Emily Kame Kngwarreye was the only indigenous artist to make the list at number 13 with $1,567,289. The rest of the list is filled with the usual blue chip artist names.

The most interesting results were found in the 'under-estimated' lists, which show artworks that achieved a sale price in excess of the prices estimated by the auction houses. Emma Minnie Boyd topped the list in the individual artwork category based on percentage, where her pen and ink drawing 'Playing on the Ladder, 1879' was sold for $2,760 against an estimate of only $200. On pure monetary difference, the estimate by Sothebys on Roy de Maistre's 'Portrait of Francis Bacon' was out by $84,000, being sold for $96,000 on an estimate of $12,000.

Emma Minnie Boyd provided more than just the one surprise result, and topped the list of the 20 most under-estimated artists, with 61% of her works selling above the high estimate, at an average price of more than 4 times the high estimate. With eastern-states auctioneers refusing to believe that a West Australian artist could be sought after on the east-coast, Robert Juniper makes the list at number 14, with 56% of artworks selling above the high estimate. After years of healthy price growth, David Boyd continues to surprise the auctioneers, and rounded out the list at number 20, with 40% of his works selling above the high estimate.

See the full list of results at:


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Damien Williams
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