The decision to sell part of their 2000 strong collection of contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous art is bittersweet for Dr. Colin and Mrs. Elizabeth Laverty whose love of fine art has developed over a period of 50 years.
A passion for aesthetically pleasing images and a desire to be surrounded by objects of beauty has driven the collecting exploits of the couple, who according to Elizabeth Laverty, collect with their hearts and not with their heads.
To be sold by Bonhams in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art on 24 March 2013 following previews in London, New York and Melbourne, the sale will include about 300 works from the Laverty collection which are estimated to be worth between $4 million to $6 million.
Far from being the sort of sale motivated by financial factors or a desire to divest themselves of less significant works, Colin and Elizabeth are using the sale to encourage art collectors and investors to recognise Indigenous Australian art as great contemporary art.
Another factor in the decision to sell part of their collection is the fact the collection is so large that much of it is in storage – a situation that will be somewhat rectified by the sale, which will provide others the opportunity to enjoy what the couple cannot have on display.
The sale will aim to promote the work of Indigenous artists alongside that of non-indigenous Australian artists in a way that celebrates the significance of each artist’s work in a broader art-historical context, as opposed to pigeonholing them into neat niches.
A selection of some of the most valuable and significant works will be chosen from the collection which includes the work of artists such as William Robinson, Rosalie Gascoigne, Peter Booth, Ildiko Kovacs, Ken Whisson, Aida Tomescu, Richard Larter, Louise Hearman, Robert Klippel, Louise Weaver, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Eubena Nampitjin, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, Paddy Bedford, Rover Thomas, Tommy Watson, Sally Gabori and Sunfly Tjampitjin.
Dr. and Mrs Laverty have always wanted to encourage the appreciation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous art with the same aesthetic approach. It might not seem like a revolutionary concept, but to see a successful juxtaposition of Indigenous and non-indigenous art is a truly enlightening and refreshing experience.
Having approached the procurement and display of the indigenous and non-indigenous works in their collection with the same personal, intuitive and instinctive attraction to particular styles and characteristics, a wonderfully harmonious environment has been created that is conducive to an appreciation of Indigenous and non-indigenous art on an equal footing.
Too often the work of Aboriginal artists is approached firstly as some sort of ethnographic novelty or sociocultural phenomenon with recognition of the aesthetic elements coming only as an afterthought.
That burden of circumstance and circumspection that has for so long plagued people’s perception of Aboriginal art will be challenged and the veil of preconceived ideas and predetermined perceptions that has prevented a “complete” experience of the work of Indigenous artists will be lifted.
The private collection of Sydney's Colin and Elizabeth Laverty is undoubtedly one of Australia's greatest. Featuring museum-quality works that have been sought by and lent to major galleries around the world such as the Musée du quai Branly in Paris and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the collection is a triumph of passion over prudence.
As Australia's only international auction house, Bonhams is in a unique position to take this exceptional collection of Australian contemporary art onto the world stage, holding previews at their galleries in London and New York in February and March, and in Melbourne in March, before the exhibition and auction at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.