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Art auction raises questions about gallery ch -

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Art auction raises questions about gallery choices

Broadcast: 13/11/2008

Reporter: Anne Maria Nicholson

Next week the Art Gallery of New South Wales is selling two Australian artworks to help pay off the
most expensive piece of art bought by an Australian public gallery.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: The Art Gallery of NSW is selling two Australian artworks from its own
collection to help pay off a $16 million painting by French impressionist Paul Cezanne.

The works by Brett Whiteley and John Perceval will be auctioned next week.

But it raised questions about the gallery's fundraising for the most expensive piece of art ever
bought by an Australian public gallery.

Anne Maria Nicholson reports.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON, REPORTER: They say sex sells. The art gallery of NSW is counting on it,
offering up a large painting called 'Balmoral', by Brett Whiteley, with price expectations of
around $750,000.

EDMOND CAPON, NSW ART GALLERY: It's got all that kind of the vivacious energy; all that
spontaneity. Well, it's got a lot of flesh too.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Also under the hammer 'Pleasure Craft' by John Perceval for a more modest

Both works donated to the art gallery but rarely shown. The benefactor has given the nod to sell

EDMOND CAPON: I am hopeful that the two works will go a very long way to filling that last bit
between the money we have raised and the money we need to raise to pay for the Cezanne.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: The Paul Cezanne is an 1880s work, 'Bords De La Marne', much prized by Edmund

It's regarded by the gallery and its supporters as a fitting purchase to celebrate his 30th
anniversary as director.

Painter Margaret Ollie pitched in $1 million, and many other artists donated work to help

But splurging so much money on a single European painting has raised a few eyebrows around the

So too has the idea of selling works from the collection to help pay for it.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Any flak at all.

EDMOND CAPON: Only from you.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: No flak, no criticism?


JOHN MCDONALD, ART CRITIC: Edmund Capon has been cavalier towards the accessioning works over the

He always believed that you should get rid of one or two or three poor quality works by a certain
artist in order to buy a good quality work.

And he's made the decision; or rather he's got his curators to help him make the decision, as to
which paintings can be lost from the collection without seriously damaging the holdings of Whiteley
and Perceval.

And those are the paintings that have gone to auction.

EDMOND CAPON: In the past we have 'deaccessioned', as we politely put it, a few works, some Nolans,
to consolidate and get a particularly great Nolan.

We have done it with Lambert. But it is very much the exception. However, it is a fact that
collections in institutions like ours grow and grow and grow.

And it is, to me, only logical that some mild considered editing happens from time to time.

JOHN MCDONALD: It's rather pathetic that we spend $16 million on a Cezanne and then we have to
scrabble around for months to find the money to pay for it, to the extent that we have to do, which
really is a last resort thing, deaccessioning paintings from the permanent collection.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: The art market is suffering from the downturn; prices dropped from the heady
days when a Whiteley sold for $3.5 million. But buyers are still hunting for paintings by big

GEORGINA PEMBERTON, SOTHEBYS: There are certainly still buyers for the top quality pictures in this
economic climate. And that's what we're seeing overseas in our London sales and New York sales.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: The gallery will banking on it when they go on the market in Melbourne later
this month.

Anne Maria Nicholson, Lateline.