Australian photographer Max Dupain is best known for his image Sunbaker.
When a copy of iconic 1937 photo went up for auction from his estate last year, it sold for a staggering $105,400, more than three times the $20,000-$30,000 estimate and a new record for the artist.
Dupain’s son Rex sent another 600 images by his father, who died in 1992, to auction with Mossgreen in Sydney on Monday.
While many sold for above estimate, one work, of washing drying in a backyard in a New South Wales coastal town in the mid-20th century, stood out above all the others.
Backyard at Forster, signed by Dupain, had a price estimate of $600-$800. It sold for 14 times higher than that figure at $14,880 (including buyer’s premium).
Two collectors, with both the cash and desire for the 1940 image, slugged it out in a bidding war yesterday until the price soared to $12,000.
Mossgreen’s head of art and research, Petrit Abazi, told Business Insider that the Melbourne collector who won the auction had been looking for the image “for a very long time” and the rival bidders explained to the auctioneers that they “just wanted it”.
“Nobody could have predicted this and speaking with the bidders, there was no remarkable reason for the strong competition. Although bidding began in the room, from around $3,000, the contest was between two telephone bidders.
“Simply because they had wanted this image for some time and were not sure if it would ever come onto the market again. It is a rare work and a beautiful image of a suburban backyard in Forster, New South Wales.
“Although not an ‘iconic’ image, it is not difficult to see its appeal. The water tanks, the white linen hung to dry, the quintessential Aussie windmill, the Norfolk Pine – all set against a brilliant luminescent backdrop in a steamy atmosphere – it truly captures the essence of so many shared Australian identities and environments.”
The image is a variation one held in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection and the price puts it on a par with Dupain’s other most collected works, At Newport and Form at Bondi.
Abazi said the sale will increase its value if another one comes onto the market because “we know of at least one other person who is willing to pay to close to that sum to have a copy”.
The total hammer price from the final part of the Dupain estate, including buyer’s premium, was $501,000, with 126% sold by value and 76% sold by volume.
“Yesterday’s auction results confirmed Max Dupain’s eminent place in Australian photographic history,” Abazi said.
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