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Top Australian Art Sold From 2016 to 2017

Australian art is different from many other art scenes in the “Western world.” It is certainly part of the conversation in terms of developed and highly industrialized, modern societies, but being so far removed, geographically anyway, from the rest of the planet, it can feel a bit disjointed.

Yet, that’s part of the Aussie charm and there’s a lot of opportunity there to have your own voice and make your mark as many Australian artists have definitely done.

Top Australian Art Sold in 2016

Sydney Harbour, Arthur Streeton, 1907 – A$2,074,000
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Sydney Harbour, Arthur Streeton, 1907 – A$2,074,000

It doesn’t get much more Australian than that – the famous Sydney Harbor. The recognizable Opera House wasn’t there yet, but this depiction by Streeton gives you a blast from the past of the iconic landscape.

Gauguin, Brett Whiteley, 1968 – A$2,024,999
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Gauguin, Brett Whiteley, 1968 – A$2,024,999
Hillside Landscape No. 1, Fred Williams, 1966 – A$1.83 million
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Hillside Landscape No. 1, Fred Williams, 1966 – A$1.83 million

Williams painted a few of these abstract landscapes and they are celebrated all around the country. You’ll see a few other similar Williams’ landscapes that made the list.

The Game of Chess, Charles Blackman, 1956 – A$1,799,500
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The Game of Chess, Charles Blackman, 1956 – A$1,799,500

Playing off of Alice in Wonderland vibes, this piece by Blackman features the recognizable characters playing chess instead of using a deck of cards or playing croquet as other representations of these characters have done.


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Top Australian Art Sold From 2010 to 2011


The Sunrise, Japanese: Good Morning!, Brett Whiteley, 1988 – A$1,681,363
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The Sunrise, Japanese: Good Morning!, Brett Whiteley, 1988 – A$1,681,363

This Australian classic has been bought and sold time and time again and is known as an Aussie favorite among art lovers. Asian influences are extremely present in Australian culture being so close in proximity to the Asian continent.

Two Running Girls, John Brack, 1959 – A$1,647,000
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Two Running Girls, John Brack, 1959 – A$1,647,000
River-Bank, Sidney Nolan, 1964 – A$1,647,000
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River-Bank, Sidney Nolan, 1964 – A$1,647,000

Nolan is most famous for his series of paintings featuring the infamous Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly. This is one of them and shows Kelly on horseback. Nolan had an interesting life full of personal dramas and painted hundreds of Kelly portraits and landscapes. They are now seen as Australian gems.

View of Hobart Town, with Mount Wellington in the Background, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1856 – A$1,534,091
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View of Hobart Town, with Mount Wellington in the Background, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1856 – A$1,534,091

One of the oldest artworks to sell for over $1 million is by Von Guerard from 1856. It features the gorgeous landscape of Hobart, Tasmania, the island off the southeastern coast of the Australian mainland. The area is definitely more “built-up” now, but it gives viewers a glimpse of this stunning area and how it looked over a century ago.

Washing the Salt off III, Brett Whiteley 1981 – A$1.22 million
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Washing the Salt off III, Brett Whiteley 1981 – A$1.22 million

It’s undeniable that Australia boasts some of the best beaches in the world. Many are virtually untouched and the brisk Pacific Ocean is a refreshing respite from the glaring sun. This is one of many in Whiteley’s famous series of beach-goers rinsing off in the sand-side showers.

The Robin and the Moon, Brett Whiteley, 1981 – A$1,098,000
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The Robin and the Moon, Brett Whiteley, 1981 – A$1,098,000

Top Australian Art Sold in 2017

Grandma’s Sunday Walk, George Russell Drysdale, 1972 – A$2,976,000
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Grandma’s Sunday Walk, George Russell Drysdale, 1972 – A$2,976,000
Ned Kelly – Outlaw, Sidney Nolan, 1955 – A$2,562,000
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Ned Kelly – Outlaw, Sidney Nolan, 1955 – A$2,562,000

Possibly the most famous of his entire Ned Kelly series, the aptly titled Ned Kelly – Outlaw is Nolan’s abstract and quite certainly satirical take on the infamous bush outlaw. The neutral colors are a beautiful depiction of the Aussie landscape and the square head returns again and again in the series. This portrait is an Australian treasure.

Earth’s Creation I, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, 1994 – A$2,100,000 (Australian Aboriginal)
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Earth’s Creation I, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, 1994 – A$2,100,000 (Australian Aboriginal)

Unfortunately, although not completely unexpected, is the fact that this is the only painting by an Aboriginal Australian that has sold for over $1 million. Up until painfully recently, these native Australians have been excluded from white Aussie life and therefore unable to participate in many of the “elite” circles.

Aboriginal art is traditionally done using a series of colorful dots – often what you’d see on didgeridoos and boomerangs. As a people, they are still very connected to the Earth and it makes sense that Kngwarreye’s record-breaking piece is called Earth’s Creation.

It’s a stunning representation of nature’s colors and a true masterpiece in its ability to convey emotion.

Breakneck Gorge, Hepburn Springs, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1864 – A$1,952,000
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Breakneck Gorge, Hepburn Springs, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1864 – A$1,952,000
Mr. John King’s Station, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1861 – A$1,952,000
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Mr. John King’s Station, Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, 1861 – A$1,952,000

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Top Australian Art Sold From 2012 to 2013


Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Charles Blackman, 1956 – A$1,891,000
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Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Charles Blackman, 1956 – A$1,891,000
The Return of the Prodigal Son, John Brack, 1953 – A$1,372,500
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The Return of the Prodigal Son, John Brack, 1953 – A$1,372,500

Satirical as ever, Brack is back with another depiction of dreary post-war suburbia. This one almost makes you laugh out loud (or perhaps wince at the cringe-worthiness) in its bland colors, sharp figures, and the sheer boredom in the characters. Perhaps this is how some “prodigal sons” feel when eating dinner at home with his parents.

Never, John Brack, 1989-90 – A$1,232,200
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Never, John Brack, 1989-90 – A$1,232,200
Moby Dick Hill, Arthur Boyd, 1949 – A$1.22 million
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Moby Dick Hill, Arthur Boyd, 1949 – A$1.22 million
Image of Modern Evil 29, Albert Lee Tucker, 1946 – A$1,159,000
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Image of Modern Evil 29, Albert Lee Tucker, 1946 – A$1,159,000

Most artists on this list have been here before, but with Tucker, that’s not the case, at least not within the last decade. This painting from the 40s is thought-provoking because of what was happening in the world at the time.

Tucker had just been discharged from the army by the time he started his Images of Modern Evil series and, without knowing it, advanced modern art in Australia during the 20th century. Still, this series was never extremely popular at the time but today, it’s seen as a vehicle for the themes that defined his career.

Shao, Brett Whiteley, 1979 – A$1,159,000
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Shao, Brett Whiteley, 1979 – A$1,159,000

Along with its small population, Australia is also relatively new in the scheme of worldly participation. Of course, the native Australians called Aborigines have been on the continent for hundreds of years before European settlement.


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Top Australian Art Sold From 2014 to 2015


But, according to this list, only one piece of Aboriginal art has ever sold for over $1 million in a modern art auction over the last decade. Interestingly, this Aboriginal was a woman, breaking two barriers in one.

Hopefully, over time and as the country grows in population, we’ll start to see more and more Australian artists being recognized internationally for their work, including the work of Aboriginal Australians.

Backs and Fronts, John Brack, 1969 – A$1,840,908
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Top Australian Art Sold From 2014 to 2015

Enthroned Darius with Xerxes behind - central relief of the Persepolis Apadana, found in the treasury
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Fascinating Facts from the Bas-Reliefs of Persepolis