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Tag Archives: Until Never

Amac Auction Action

Sunday was a big day in Melbourne’s street art calendar and yet there was no aerosol in the air – it had been replaced by the smell of money. I’ve been following in blog posts the progress of street art moving from the street, into the gallery and now into the auction house. Not that this is the first street art auction in Melbourne but the Andy Mac Collection is an important event and Leonard Joel is a major art auction house.

For over a decade Andy Mac (aka Amac) has been involvement with Melbourne’s street art. He established City Lights (in Centre Place 1996 and in Hosier Lane in 1998) and then Until Never gallery in 2005. He is the first person for a media or documentary interview on Melbourne’s street art. He has also been a serious collector, not just of street art but also skateboards, ceramics and rock band posters for a quarter of a century.

The auction is a serious operation with a full colour newsprint catalogue, receptionists, and a floor talk by Andy Mac on the Saturday before the auction. Viewing of the Andy Mac Collection – “street and fine art from Citylights Project 1992-2012” had been open all week at Leonard Joel auction house in South Yarra. And the publicity for the auction had been going since March (my father sent me a clipping from The Australian 3/4/12 about the auction – that’s what people did before the advent of the online world). There is a lot of money at stake in this auction, an expected $350,000. Andy Mac will get his superannuation retirement investment. And Leonard Joel will get the 22% buyers premium along with a percentage of the auction price. And some artists may have a game changing moment in their career.

The viewing room was a major exhibition of street art itself, complete with catalogue. Three walls at one end of Leonard Joel’s converted old schoolrooms were covered in wall panels of stencils from 2004, the Freeze Muthastika. This collaborative work was painted at the Big Day Out in 2004 and consists of 72 panels (measuring over 30 metres in length, or 60 sq metres approx). Two sets of these panels were sold for $28,000 and the other two were passed in passed in.

Scattered amongst the stencil art there is a signature David Waters sculpture made from foam ($350), beautiful Marcos Davidson rings and one his spectacular assemblages (unsold). It seemed like everything was up for sale, including the perpex tables from Until Never gallery. The “very rare 1957 Featherston Series 21 chair” signed Amac, Rubin, Braddock, Terror and Sync might be bought for the chair or the signatures (sold for $1500 ). Industrial double sided step ladder, Lot 419 “Blue fiberglass construction helmet” estimated at $100 – $200 (Tell them they’re dreaming!) (unsold)

On Sunday the auction room was packed; they even had to bring out more chairs to put another row down the back although numbers thinned after an hour. Along one side of the room there was a table of telephones and laptops attended by assistants dealt with the phone and online bidding. Lots were displayed digitally on two screens and there were over 500 lots to get through (so I did not stay to report on all the details).

Art collector Andrew King started the bidding on the first lot up for auction and over the course of auction added many works to his extensive street art collection. (For more about Andrew King and Sandra Powell’s collection see CDH’s interview with them on Invurt). King was not alone in the bidding and there was sometimes stiff competition for particular works. J.D. Mittman, the former gallery director of Famous When Dead was also bidding, seated at the back of the room with the artist, Adi. There weren’t many artists in attendance; Adi, Miso and Seldom were the only artists that I recognized.

The auction house estimates were on the optimistic side and it was rare for a lot to go above that price. A few lots went unsold, most of those due to the bidding falling just shy of the reserve price. Some lots achieved different prices depending on the colour of paint sprayed through same stencil by an unknown artist: 84. brown (unsold), 85. red (unsold), 86. purple (sold $200) 87. black (sold $260). Other lots achieved different prices depending on the subject of the art. You can see the auction results for yourself at Leonard Joel’s website (all prices quoted exclude the 22% buyers premium).

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A February Afternoon of Exhibitions

The Hare Krishnas were parading along Flinders St. this afternoon with drums, finger cymbals and chanting mixing with the peels of bells from St. Paul’s Cathedral further down the street. I haven’t seen Hare Krishnas on the street since the early 1980s.

I was in the city to look at galleries. Platform was the first, as I exited Flinders St. Station. The Sample cabinet with Rebecca Agnew’s stop motion animation and dead roses is well worth sampling. Carrie McGrath’s “Hitting the Jars” in Vitrine and People Collective in the main Platform cabinets are both a bit average.

I went to look at the NGV Studio, a glass fronted space in front of the NGV in right down the far end of Fed Square. Previously the space has been used for a design gallery and a children’s gallery but it has never really worked because of its location. This year the NGV Studio has been featuring a lot of work from Melbourne street artists. Behind the glass is a long partition wall painted with cut away letters spelling out “graffiti always wins”.

Shida painting

Across the road in Hosier Lane, Shida was up a ladder painting the wall at the entrance to Until Never. Upstairs in the gallery Shida’s exhibition “Crystals of the Colossus” is spectacular. Savage subjects and terrible beauty; Shida’s figures are all sharp teeth and claws. However, the fantastic subject matter is absorbed by Shida’s drawing technique. I was particularly enchanted by the mixed media paintings with the resin coating that looked like stain glass. Some of the works reminded me of Matisse or Wifredo Lam with the long arcing lines; Shida is definitely influenced by cubism. And unlike old-school street artists Shida has a light touch. Shida was still painting when I came downstairs, this time with a brush and very diluted acrylic paint, his sweeping curved lines repeating on the large wall. Street art, in entering the gallery, has become very mannerist. It is all about the artist’s particular style, their hand and their signature manner of creating images.

Shida painting

Detail of earlier Shida piece in Hosier Lane

Almost beyond the hand and the gestural is the abstract modern art of Dale Frank. Paint is what Frank’s paintings are all about; the waves of paint mix and interact for puddles of colours, flow down the canvas and drip across it. Dale Frank currently exhibiting at Anna Schwartz Gallery. The gallery has been specially decorated for the exhibition; the catalogue even mentioned the “oak-leaf green” gallery walls. It makes the gallery a calm dark space with the pale canvases lit like jewels.

Then at City Gallery in Melbourne Town Hall was “From Public Figures to Public Sculpture”. It is a great little exhibition; well worth a look if you are interested in public sculptures in Melbourne. All the maquette (models) of familiar Melbourne sculptures are there: “The Public Purse”, “The Echo”, “The Monument to Burke and Wills” and many others. Seeing the models made of plaster, balsa wood or other materials always makes sculpture appear less daunting than the large finished work made of bronze or stone.


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