Arthur Boyd's painting sets a new auction record

TONY EASTLEY: Last night in Melbourne a painting by Arthur Boyd set a new auction record for his work.

Painted in 1957 Boyd's Bride Running Away was purchased for $1.4 million by an anonymous buyer.

AM's Alison Caldwell went to the auction for AM.

AUCTIONEER: We come to the magnificent front cover PE slot number 19, the Arthur Boyd, Bride Running Away. Lot…

ALISON CALDWELL: Arthur Boyd's painting features a barefoot white bride running away from her Indigenous groom who's standing on a beach with the skeleton of a sailboat washed ashore and a magpie floating in the bride's veil.

It's been held in a private Melbourne collection for the past 40 years. But last night Arthur Boyd's Bride Running Away finally went under the hammer.

AUCTIONEER: Sally's bid at 1.3…

ALISON CALDWELL: Sixty people turned out on a rainy, cold, winter's evening to witness the sale.

With bids starting at $1.2 million it became a battle between telephone bidders.

AUCTIONEER: …at $1.4 million and away it goes at $1.4 million. All done. Selling then at $1.4 million. (Sound of hammer). Thank you very much Effie. That is a new artist auction record. Thank you very much John. (Applause)

GEOFFREY SMITH: Bride Running Away is really one of the most iconic paintings from Arthur Boyd's bride series, painted in the late 1950s, reflects Arthur Boyd's concerns with the plight of Indigenous Australians. But more generically the painting is about thwarted love.

ALISON CALDWELL: Geoffrey Smith is the chairman of Sotheby's Australia.

GEOFFREY SMITH: You have Boyd's own history in this picture - the influence of having visited central Australia in 1951, seeing these if you like surreal images of Aboriginal women, one in particular, in the back of a truck in a European bride dress and veil going off to her wedding.

So it's that conflating imagery of European and Indigenous. They're not literal. They're allegorical. And really they are about universal themes of love and sometimes thwarted love.

ALISON CALDWELL: You were on the phone. You took the winning bid so to speak in the battle of the phones. Was the bidder excited?

GEOFFREY SMITH: They love the painting. They love the painting. So I believe it's gone to a wonderful home.

ALISON CALDWELL: Do you think we'll see it again?

GEOFFREY SMITH: I don't know. I hope that it will be available for public display if required.

ALISON CALDWELL: Geoffrey Smith says Sotheby's has achieved world record prices for paintings in Arthur Boyd's "Brides" series during the past 12 months.

GEOFFREY SMITH: Personally I love the fact that it is more the collectors who are in the market. People have been waiting for particular paintings to come onto the market, very serious. And they're not looking to purchase works and then release them on the short term.

These are the pictures that Boyd produced that are the most challenging and therefore in many ways the rarest and the most sought after.

ALISON CALDWELL: Boyd's Bride Running Away was ultimately sold for $1.68 million which includes the buyer's premium of $280,000, a kind of commission of sale for Sotheby's.

TONY EASTLEY: Alison Caldwell reporting.

Source: ABC
Alison Caldwell