Family sells 70 years of art by businessman Harry Oviss
Oviss’ wife of 56 years, Esther, who died before him, tolerated his obsession, only lamenting that she couldn’t invite anyone over for a cup of tea because there was no space to put down the cups.
It is up to Messer and his younger sister Greta Grossberg to sort some 4000 items which will be auctioned in 1226 lots at Gibson.
“We worked like sailors for weeks,” says Messer. “Every surface was covered with objects.”
Oviss’s tastes were strictly contemporary and in this he was ahead of his time.
“He didn’t like traditional art,” says Grossberg. “He was totally interested in contemporary art, for which, in the 1960s, there was not a large market for Australia. He went totally against the grain.
Oviss began collecting in the 1960s after the family moved into a Modernist home in Toorak, designed by architectural firm Montgomery King & Trengove. Nowadays, people line up to get a glimpse of these homes when they hit the market. Back then, “everyone was laughing,” says Grossberg.
Oviss collected works that complemented the house, by modernist and contemporary artists such as Arthur Boyd, Donald Friend, Leonard French, Roger Kemp, John Coburn, Albert Tucker, Robert Dickerson, Edwin Tanner, Noel Counihan, and Gareth Sansom.
But its taste has continued to evolve. In 2005, Oviss paid $ 5,736 (including the purchase bonus) at Christie’s in Melbourne for a boxing glove painted by Andy Warhol and worn by the artist for a poster for a joint exhibition with Jean-Michel Basquiat. The glove is back on the market with an estimate of $ 3,000 to $ 5,000.
Oviss’ jewelry collection also leaned towards modernism, with fabulously voluminous and sculptural gold rings set with gemstones and geodes by Australian designers such as Gary Bradley and Alan Shaw. His walking sticks came in every possible permutation, including one with a snuff compartment and an alcohol vial segment.
“A lot of Harry’s purchases were based on his attraction to the artist’s craftsmanship or visible work,” says Grossberg. “He liked people who were good with their hands and liked being able to see the creativity in the object.
“He liked impasto painting, for example, where you could see the movement of thick paint, jewelry with pattern demarcations and intricate design as features, and sculpture where there was often physical activity. implicit. He loved how an inanimate object could be created to convey that kind of movement and energy.
Oviss’s passion for the contemporary continued to the end. His latest purchase was a self-portrait of Ben Quilty bought at auction in May of last year. At this point, Oviss was in a retirement home and was unable to attend the auction in person; he asked Grossberg to bid for him online while giving instructions over the phone.
Messer recalls: “He said to me while he was in the nursing home: ‘I miss my paintings so much, I miss having them around me so much’.
The Quilty painting is one of the objects the family will keep in memory of Oviss’ spectacular collector’s life.
In other news, Menzies’ inaugural timed online prints & The sale of multiples last Thursday was not the success the company hoped for. Menzies took a risk by listing works of art valued at $ 1.52 million in a fully automated, timed online auction.
But the three major lots – the four-part portrait of Andy Warhol Elisabeth ii and two works by British street artist Banksy, a current market favorite, failed to attract a single auction that night, wiping over $ 1 million from the auction result. The sale had a liquidation rate of 68.5% in volume and only 30% in value, for a total of $ 458,000 (hammer). Despite this, Menzies art director Brett Ballard professed no disappointment.
“We have to take the highs with the lows, we’re auctioneers,” Ballard told Saleroom this week. “It’s not a feeling of disappointment. It is the nature of the business to have unsold items overnight and continue selling after the auction.
Two works were then sold: Banksy’s morons, 2007, and Howard Arkley and Juan Davila Interior with integrated bar, 1992. Ballard is also in discussion with an international collector about Warhol’s work Queen elizabeth ii.
Some lots performed well at night, including David Hockney’s Untitled n ° 20, of The Yosemite Suite, 2010, which doubled its high estimate of sale to $ 140,000 (hammer), and Brett Whiteley’s Cat, 1980, which sold for $ 38,000 (hammer) more than tripling its low estimate of $ 15,000.
Ballard said Menzies will continue with the Prints & Multiple online sales next year.