Acclaimed and controversial as records were broken for old and new sculptures
While To manage is 89 cm high, Quartet, sculpted from 1981 to 1991, stands almost two meters tall and is one of the few large sculptures produced by Madigan. The seller, who had installed the work in the formal garden of an estate in the New South Wales region, had owned the sculpture for over 20 years.
Born in Adelaide in 1926, Madigan moved to Sydney with her parents as a teenager and studied fine art at East Sydney Technical College, now the National Art School. Another student at the school was sculptor Robert Klippel who would become her partner later in life after her separation from husband Jack Giles in 1972. The relationship with Klippel lasted until his death in 2001. Madigan died in 2019.
“She and Bob were complaining that sculpture was painting’s poor sister,” Giles said.
Madigan was not a “self-promoter,” Giles said, and after moving from Sydney to Yass in 2001 at Giles’ neighboring property, she became less visible in the arts although she continued to work, creating sculptures, pastels and collages. , many of which have never been exhibited.
“She has always been highly respected by public institutions, but has not been so well known to the public,” said Giles. “Since she passed away, we’ve put some things up for auction to encourage that build-up of profile again and that’s good, but a major work like this that’s being auctioned successfully is a huge thing in the world. public perception of it. This is the only way for his work to be seen as a collection and a value, so it is extremely important.
The result is the third highest for an Australian woman sculptor – Bronwyn Oliver holds the pole position with the work Shell, 2003, which sold for $ 360,000 (hammer) at Menzies in Melbourne in 2019. The highest price paid for a sculpture at auction in Australia is that of Joel Elenberg Mask, 1979, which sold for $ 520,000 (hammer) at Sotheby’s Australia in 2018.
Smith was of course extremely pleased with the result of Madigan’s sculpture, but he couldn’t help but compare it to the $ 14 million commission recently announced by the National Gallery of Australia to artist Lindy Lee, based in Byron Bay, to create a large-scale outdoor sculpture to mark the gallery’s 40th anniversary. Scheduled for completion in 2024, Lee’s sculpture will be four meters high, nearly eight meters wide, and weigh 13 tonnes. People will be able to walk through the mirror-polished, perforated stainless steel book titled Ouroboros, which refers to the mythical serpent that eats its own tail.
As the gallery’s most expensive commission ever, the sculpture has sparked debate, with some critics opposing it, and one even ridiculing it as a “signal of virtue,” a criticism that Saleroom would counter-label “chauvinist”. That said, it is legitimate to wonder about the cost of this ambitious commission, which will be paid through the NGA’s collection development fund. Many did and are intrigued by the price.
“It’s so out of the stadium that everything we sell seems undervalued,” Smith said. “Maybe it’s time to reassess the value of Australian art, and (NGA Director) Nick (Mitzevich) is leading the charge.”
One industry figure who declined to be named described the cost as “bordering on recklessness.”
“I think Lindy was brought into an international price demographic that she doesn’t belong to. The work looks really good. If it was $ 2.5 million, I would say “that’s a lot of money”.
Others recognized the difficulty of assessing the value of the work without knowing more about its conception and realization. Another figure in the arts who declined to be named said: “I think the cost is astronomical… but I’m not really qualified to comment and very few people are, it’s as opaque as the costs set. by a specialist doctor. “
London-based senior Bonhams post-war and contemporary art specialist Cassi Young, however, called the order “a reasonable price.”
“When you look at the scale of the work, it’s 13 tonnes, it’s four meters, it’s totally immersive, I don’t think it’s scandalous at all. The auction record for a living artist is that of Jeff Koons Rabbit, which sold for 91 million US dollars. When you look at it like that, I don’t think the NGA commission is outrageous. Lindy is a wonderful artist and it is such a beautiful job.
Rabbit, is an edition of three, and only 104cm tall, but love it or hate it, Koons is a recognized superstar of contemporary art.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that NGA acquisitions have been mired in controversy, the most spectacular for Jackson Pollock. Blue poles. Purchased for $ 1.3 million in 1973, the painting is today estimated at around $ 350 million. Time will tell if Ouroboros it is also money well spent. In the short term, there will likely be a gain in the number of visitors, as people will line up to judge for themselves.