Although Australia is massive in terms of geographical size, spanning more than 7.6 million square kilometers, it doesn’t have a population to compete with China, the U.S., or other large countries.
Plus, being so remote down deep in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s not easy to get very many eyes on your artwork. So, competing on the world stage in art has come to only a few Australian artists.
In Australia, if you sell a piece for more than a million dollars, you’ve well and truly “made it.” Over the last decade, there have been a handful of exceptional artists who have completed this task including Sidney Nolan, John Brack, and Brett Whiteley.
Here, we’re breaking it down into smaller chunks and checking out these Australian paintings that sold for over $1 million between 2014 and 2016 with more information about some of our favorites.
Top Australian Art Sold in 2015
Trees and Hillsides, Fred Williams, 1964 – A$1,708,000
Williams is famous for his landscapes and abstract depictions of Aussie hillsides such as this one. It’s his interpretation of the rugged yet often barren Australian bush and tends to use muted, neutral tones. Many of these paintings from this series have sold for millions.
Boyd has an entire series of bride paintings and they’re all rather haunting but with a magical quality. Some have Shakespearean references, especially when the ghostly essence is clear, but they’re all ridden with turmoil and make comments on the intolerance that many Australians had and still have for the Aboriginals (or native Australians).
Nolan’s work is all about satire and surrealism. He’s most famous for his Ned Kelly series depicting the infamous outlaw but this painting has a bit of a different history. It was never exhibited and was only sold after his daughter put it up for auction in 2015.
He gave the painting to her when she was 10 years old and considered how much it went for, it seems she made quite a bit of money off it.
As we can see, here is another from the series of hillside paintings done by Williams.
Top Australian Art Sold in 2014
For Brack, 1969 was the year of the dancers and he painted many of them. Seemingly interested in the shapes of moving bodies, Brack would also continue to paint gymnasts in a series of distinguishable artistic eras.
Although this piece isn’t part of the series of beachside showers, you can see the unique stylistic way that Whiteley paints the human body. He must have been fascinated by women and water.
As you may have noticed, the Australian art world is completely overrun by white men. Not a single woman made this list and native Australians (known as the Aboriginals) barely scratch the surface in terms of making this kind of money from their art.
Diversity is somewhat of a problem in Australia, especially during the time that many of these works were completed. Hopefully, in the coming years, more women, Aborigines, Torres Strait islanders, and other more diverse groups will start to make waves in the Australian art scene.
However, some of these paintings are truly gorgeous and are quintessentially Australian. From the harbor landscapes and beachy scenes, these expensive pieces of art are some of the pride and joy of Australiana.