Sotheby’s Changes to Franchise in Oz –

Sotheby’s Changes to Franchise in Oz –

sothebysIn what I understand is an unprecedented event, Australian auction house Bonhams and Goodman Auctioneers will ditch the Bonhams brand and relaunch as the Australian arm of Sotheby’s. According to the ACCC website, “First East Auction Holdings trading as Bonhams & Goodman proposes to acquire auction business and associated assets of Sotheby’s Australia and also obtain a licence to use the Sotheby’s trademark in Australia and New Zealand for a period of 10 years.”

Sotheby’s International has operated a branch in Australia since 1982 but will now hand over the reins to Tim Goodman, head of Bonhams and Goodman, along with a license agreement which gives Goodman the right to operate under the Sotheby’s name. Bonhams, on the other hand, will now manage their own operations in Australia instead licensing their name to another company. According to Bonhams: “Bonhams 1793 – a shareholder in the Australian company First East Auction Holdings Limited (FEAHL), which has traded for six years as Bonhams & Goodman – announced today that Bonhams 1793 will launch its own independent operation in Australia, looking to expand its presence in this important market as part of Bonhams operations in 25 countries around the world.”

At the beginning of the year there were rumours spreading that Sotheby’s would follow Christie’s and abandon Australia all together so it is a relief for the Australian art market that Sotheby’s are not jumping ship. Sotheby’s licenses their name to real estate agents through the Sotheby’s Realty brand which was purchased by Cedant Corporation in 2004 but, from what I can gather, has not licensed their name to an auction house in this way before. According to my sources, Sotheby’s is very reluctant to lend their name to anyone so is obviously very trusting of Tim Goodman and seems keen to maintain a presence in Australia.

On a less positive note Artemis Auctions, the Australia art auction house aimed at the middle market which was started at the beginning of this year, has been re-absorbed by the parent companies after poor results. Mossgreen Auctions and Deutscher and Hackett Auctions were responsible for the ambitious venture that supposed to be filling what was thought to be a gap in the lower to middle market. When artemis auctions was started at the beginning of the year I  with the statement made by the owner of the auction house, Paul Sumner, who said that the lower and middle market was under serviced. In fact, my impression was that this sector of the market was in fact over serviced; an opinion that I made clear on my Australian Art Market Blog. And I was right.  It is a shame that the business was not a success but such is life.

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

Australian Art Market Blog Goes Live



Nicholas Forrest


Australian Art Market Blog Goes Live

blog12Sydney, NSW, 17/3/2009 – Sydney, Australia based art market analyst and art critic Nicholas Forrest has announced the launch of a blog dedicated to the Australian art market.

The blog will feature a no holds barred analysis of the Australian art market by Nicholas Forrest as well as advice for art investors, relevant news items and artist profiles.

The news, information and analysis provided on the site will cater to the needs of all participants in the Australian art market from the least experienced collectors and investors to art market professionals.

“I am really excited about this project and am looking forward to tackling the important issues currently facing those involved in the Australian art market whether they be buyers, sellers or art market professionals” said Nicholas Forrest, founder of the Australian Art Market Blog

“The Australian Art Market is an exciting and dynamic market that is at a crucial stage of its development. I am delighted to be able to provide what I believe is a much needed resource that provides Australian art collectors and investors with the information and knowledge that they need to be able to approach the art market with confidence.”

For additional information contact Nicholas Forrest or visit

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes on art and the art market for various magazines, newspapers and websites and has appeared on radio and television as an art market analyst.

– END –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 3 –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 3 –

2008 Melbourne Art Fair

2008 Melbourne Art Fair

Two important art world events took place in Australia in 2008 the first of which was the biennial Melbourne Art Fair and the second being the Sydney Biennale.  The biennial Melbourne Art Fair took place from the 30 July – 3 August at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens where 80 prestigious galleries from Australia and abroad exhibited some 3000 works by 900 living artists from all over the world.  To exhibit at the fair one has to have been invited by the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation who invite selected Australian and International galleries to participate.  Only galleries who represent living artists and hold regular exhibitions on their own premises are eligible to be selected as exhibitors and those that are invited to exhibit must ensure that at least 80% of the work they display is by living artists.  According to the post-fair press release “the four-day Fair generated sales of
AUS$12.1 million , representing a 16% increase on 2006 sales, with 81% of the artworks sold under $10,000 in value. 30,000 people attended the Fair, representing a 14% increase on 2006 attendances.” In comparison, the Tokyo Art Fair only managed sales of US$10,000,000 which was less than the US$11,000,000 (AU to US exchange rate at time) achieved by the Melbourne Art Fair.  Not a bad result for a country with such a small art market. The success of the Melbourne Art Fair was at odds with the predictions of doom and gloom that were beginning to become more frequent at the time. In fact, the success of the 2008 fair was so encouraging that it was announced that the fair would become an annual event.  That is, until the financial crisis took hold and it was decided that a biennial fair was the best option after all.

Although not a commercial event, the  2008 Sydney Biennale was an extremely important event for the promotion and appreciation of modern and contemporary art in Australia.  As one of the oldest and most celebrated   The 2008 biennale  set a new attendance record, with 435,000 people visiting over the course of the 12-week event, up 37% on the 2006 Biennale.   Without doubt the event was a massive success that can only have increased people’s interest in fine art and the likelihood of those that visited the fair purchasing art in the future.

The other art event worth mentioning is the Art Sydney 08 art fair which is an annual event that brings together 100 galleries and a wide variety of art.  Unfortunately the 2008 fair was a bitter disappointment with a majority of what was on offer resembling the mass produced rubbish sold in large numbers at home furnishing stores.  Even though most of what was on offer was  apparently close to a million dollars was spent on opening night which just goes to show that wealth and good taste do not go hand in hand.

2008 was a big year for the Australian art market even though the financial crisis took it’s toll on the auction industry towards the end of the year resulting in less than pleasing end of year results.  What does 2009 have in store for the Australian art market?  Stay tuned for the next post in the Australian Art Market 08 Review series to fine out !!!

See previous two Australian Art Market 08 Review posts here:

Part 1

Part 2

image: 2008 Melbourne Art Fair

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 2 –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 2 –

bonhams-and-goodmanBy the last round of auctions for 2008 in November and December it was obvious that the auction industry was still coming to terms with the art market correction taking place despite the fact that signs of a cooling market had been evident for several months prior. It appears that some auction houses had taken the opportunity to adjust their sales to reflect the leaner times but it also appeared that some of the auction houses had not been so savvy and either were being pressured by their vendors to work with higher estimates or had just not made the correct revisions. The bargains that people are bound to be seeking as the art market undergoes a correction had just begun to appear at the November/December sales prompting some of the more confident buyers to take advantage. Overall, however, the end of year sales continued to reflect the softening market albeit with some scattered positive results brightening that light at the end of the tunnel. What needs to be understood is that the results for 2008 were no where near as bad as many people made out. Taking all things into consideration the Australian art market appeared to have held up rather well by the end of 2008 with the effects of the financial crisis seemingly not affecting the Australian market as much as certain international markets.

One auction in particular stole the end of year show achieving results well up on the other auction houses and in the process. That auction was the November 26 Deutscher-Hackett sale which took in a total of $3,127,260 (including buyers premium) and sold 73% of works by value and 72% by volume. In comparison, the combined Deutscher-Menzies and Lawson-Menzies November sale achieved 62% by value and 70% by volume, the Sotheby’s November sale achieved 67.4% by value and 60.8% by volume and the Bonhams and Goodman sale achieved 61% by value and 59% by volume. One of the smaller auction houses, Leski Auctions, held their first dedicated art auction on the 2nd of December and managed to sell a quite respectable 61% by value and 62% by volume for a total of $510,048 (data from

Overall the Australian art market took a significant step backwards in 2008 compared to 2007 with auction sales dropping from a $175.6 million record year in 2007 to $114.5 million. Although the figures for 2008 look particularly bleak when compared with those of 2007 the bigger picture is not quite as bad with 2008 auction sales total well up on the 2006 auction sales total of AU$104 million. One of the most interesting statistics from 2008 comes from the Australian art auction sales database, the Australian Art Sales Digest (, who calculated that the overall art auction clearance rate (percent sold by number) decreased from 71.9% in 2007 to 65.6% in 2008.  Importantly, the drop in the clearance rate is not as big as many people would have predicted.

To be continued…..

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 1 –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 1 –

drysdale2008 was a rather interesting year for the Australian art market with results for the first half of the year giving the impression that, for the time being at least, the market for art in Australia was set to continue it’s bull run albeit at a less frenzied pace.  One of the most celebrated (and over-rated) sales of the year took place in June when the Sydney based auction house Deutscher-Menzies sold Picasso’s “Sylvette” for AU$6.9 million which was the most expensive painting ever sold at auction in Australia.  The identity or location of the overseas buyer was not made public but is rumored to have been a collector from Russia or another European country. Menzies was quoted as saying “It’s a historic day for Australia in the sense that a very significant international picture by the greatest artist of the 20th Century was sold at an Australian auction for a record price”.

Had “Sylvette” been purchased by an Australian (in Australia) buyer I might have been impressed but all the sale of “Sylvette” proves is that Deutscher-Menzies were willing to spend plenty of money on marketing the work ($20,000 apparently). The previous record for a work of art sold at auction in Australia was Australian artist Brett Whiteley’s “The Olgas for Ernest Giles” which sold for AU$3.48 million in 2007. The top price paid for a work of art by a non-Aboriginal Australian artist in 2008 was $1,890,000 for Russel Drysdale’s “Rocky McCormack” which was sold by Sotheby’s in August.  The top price paid for an Aboriginal work of art in 2008 was $360,000 for Emily Kngwarreye’s “Earth’s Creation II 1995” sold by Deutscher Menzies in December.

Although some evidence of a slightly more cautious art buying public began to appear as early as March the Australian art market appeared to be in relatively good health until about August when things began to take a turn for the worst.  The August round of auctions were particularly bad leaving no doubt that the Australian art market was beginning to experience a correction.  Clearance rates for the August sales were extremely disappointing with Sotheby’s only able to muster a clearance rates of 50% and Bonhams and Goodman only able to manage 49%.  A few positive sales and some new auction records for several artists did, however, provide some optimism heading into the end of the year.  If only that optimism could have been converted into sales.

to be continued…..

iamge: Rocky McCormack by Russell Drysdale

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.