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  • Jane Messenger


On Tuesday night 42 paintings by the iconic Australian modernist painter Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) were auctioned at Smith & Singer. Formally from the collection of Lord McAlpine, modest estimates of $15,000-$25,000 were placed on each painting (all same medium, condition and similar size with dates ranging from 1957-1987)). Just under half the number of lots exceeded high estimate, with all paintings selling at or above low estimate. Stand out results include Crocodile 1963 for $74,000 hammer ($90,818 with Buyer’s Premium), Ned Kelly (Cover Design) 1961 for $52,000 hammer ($63,818) and Convict Head (Mrs Fraser) 1957 for $47,000 hammer ($57,682).

The disparity of values in this one action hints at the challenges associated with valuing the art of Nolan, and all works sold at auction more broadly. The difficulties with assessing the value of paintings by Nolan is heightened when one considers for 10 years Nolan’s First Class Marksman 1946 held the record for the most expensive Australian work of art sold at auction (sold for $5,4000,000; eclipsed when Brett Whiteley’s Henri’s Armchair 1974 sold for $6,136,000 in 2020).

How does a buyer know where value lies? Messenger Art Advisory provides pre-auction valuation reports to ensure collector’s buy with an informed mind as to relative market values.


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