13 May 2004

Collectables: Fairweather trading

Ian Fairweather, Last Supper, (1958).
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales
The modernists have been trumping the contemporaries in the salerooms, while a Picasso scooped the pot, writes Michael Hutak.

There's an inverse – some would say perverse – law of the Australian art market that says the more conventional the wisdom, the less sway it holds. An example: in the past few years, we've been told the moderns favoured by old fogeys are on their way out as the market moves to accommodate cashed-up young fogeys, who allegedly prefer contemporary art and art photography.

Last week's round of fine-art auctions threw that theory on the scrapheap as record sales of modernists such as Ian Fairweather and Margaret Preston cast the passed-in works of hitherto hot contemporaries Tracey Moffatt, Tim Maguire and John Kelly into a new, uncertain light.