The sale of 89 Australian artworks from the collection of TV game show doyen Reg Grundy and his wife Joy Chambers Grundy earned a stunning A$19.16 million (NZ$22.8m) in Sydney last night.
Grossing A$15.7 million under the hammer, against earlier estimates of A$15.5 million to A$20.8 million, the total sale including auctioneers Bonhoms fees made it Australia's most value single-owner art auction ever.
The top performer was Fred Williams's You Yangs landscape 1963 which took A$1.875 million under the hammer, to a total premium sale of A$2.287,500.
The next biggest performer was the late Melbourne artist John Brack's The New House from 1953, which went for a premium sale of A$1.952 million. It showed a woman in an apron leaning into her suited man by a home fireplace.
That painting had pride of place at the front of the auction room in the Overseas Passenger Terminal overlooking Sydney Harbour next to another John Brack from 1953, The jockey and his wife, which sold for a higher than expected premium A$1.159 million (A$950,000 under the hammer).
The two paintings could well be a reflection of the bliss Grundy and his wife have in their long marriage and living in Bermuda, where they wanted to "simplify their life" by shedding the artwork.
Even so, neither of them attended last night's auction. Joy Chambers Grundy was said to have been emotional about parting with the paintings, having flown out of Sydney in Tuesday rather than attend the auction.
Record prices were achieved for artist Herbert Badham for his 1933 work Travellers, with the premium sale price of A$732,000; for Margaret Preston's Native Honeysuckle, A$463,600; Tony Tuckson's Pink, white line, yellow edge, red line middle 1970-73 A$39,400; and a Narelle Jubelin work that fetched a premium of A$122,000.
In a poignant moment, Jeffrey Smart's Luxury cruise 1972-73 fetched A$550,000 under the hammer - higher than the A$350,000 to A$400,000 estimate - to a premium sale of A$671,000 including fees.
There were some disappointments: work by Eugene von Guerard, The farm of Mr Perry on the Yarra 1855, failed to meet the reserve despite a A$900,000-A$120,000 estimate and was not sold.
Others surprised: Joy Hester's Figure with scales, 1957, sold for A$207,400 including Bonhams fees; double the estimate.
- Sydney Morning Herald