Today hanging a highly important work of art, such as signed and numbered print by pop art prince Andy Warhol of rock n’roll living legend Mick Jagger above an important antique French Empire period ormolu mounted mahogany cabinet with a black fossil marble top in a contemporary room, is all about beauty, art, form and function meeting style. Thomas Hamel and Martyn Cook are two Sydney based international antique, art, design and décor style authorities that understand this concept more than most.
For over three decades based at Sydney antiques dealer Martyn Cook has introduced his clients to the very best of what has been available on the international collectors market. His innate understanding and ability to source the rare and the wonderful has helped him find and reveal some amazing treasures over the years. Well qualified in America before making Sydney his home base nearly two decades ago, designer Thomas Hamel carefully crafts and stylishly shapes his interiors to suit their occupants, providing an aesthetically pleasing built environment that allows them to live out their daily lives effortlessly.
On Sunday May 20 Melbourne based Mossgreen Auctions conducted the sale of a collection of important fine art and antiques, as well as wonderful array of contemporary decorative items from Thomas Hamel Interiors and Martyn Cook Antiques at Sydney. The total result incl. Buyer’s Premium (BP) :$2.07 million. The catalogue revealed that there were many truly extraordinary rare and special items on sale and it was hard to make a choice about what to discuss beforehand. The results were encouraging for a market that has suffered much in recent years, with many items selling well over reserve.
Being a collector is often misrepresented as a hobby of only a select few. From my own experience working in the antiques and design trades, perusing galleries, working at and attending fairs and auctions over a long period of time (some 30+ years), it is exactly the opposite. Collecting is a pleasure indulged in by a vast number of people from many different backgrounds and all walks of life.
The opportunity to purchase from such a wide and diverse range of items of this quality does not happen very often in Australia. There was really something for everyone in the sale. Some 400 + of the 695 items sold were offered without a reserve. This meant that many people who attended the auction found themselves in a unique position on the day and obtained something wonderful at a very special value price.
At this prestigious sale some of the most coveted objects in the world were offered. This included an excellent selection of paintings, drawings, caricatures, sculpture, prints, engravings, light fittings, antique furniture, mirrors, ceramics, silver, glass, rugs, textiles, superb objet d’art, as well as quality items of contemporary art, design and style.
The sale was divided into two parts. The first 286 items were all high-end quality pieces of furniture, art and objects, which all had estimates as a guide to price. From the three delightful and rare tea-caddy’s for charm collectors and box buffs that commenced the sale and sold well over reserve, to the impressive Italian painted console table that ended Part 1 of the sale, there was spirited bidding in between.
With the king of everyone’s perceptions the pop art Prince Andy Warhol being the subject of an Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York later this year, the image of Mick Jagger (1975) signed in pencil by the artist, and in felt tip pen by Jagger, created a great deal of interest. It was sold to a phone bidder for $48,000 (Result inc. BP: $56,120.00) more than three times its $10,000 to $15,000 pre-sale estimate. Likewise knowledge and interest in the furniture and objects from the French Empire (English Regency) period will only be expanded by the exhibition Napoleon: Revolution to Empire starting at the National Gallery of Victoria June 2nd and the Empire pieces on sale also did well.
The English Regency and French Empire style periods for antiques has been a particular focus for many clients of Martyn Cook over the years, so it is no surprise that a great many items in the sale were gleaned from, or took their style from this so-called romantic era. This was when a preference for neoclassical design across all aspects of art and architecture reached a zenith in Europe.
Martyn Cook started off his antiques career working with the English Regency specialist Paul Kenny in the early 80’s at Sydney, while also liaising with other such luminaries of the trade as the late great Woollahra dealer Bill Bradshaw.
He also collaborated with English furniture and textile expert Lanto Synge of Mallett of London, who exhibited in Australia a number of times at his very stylish salon located at that time in Queen Street, Woollahra.
There was a fine set of eight charming Regency ebonised and parcel gilt salon chairs in the sale that would suit many an interior, as would the ruggedly handsome pair of Regency mahogany hoop back Bergere chairs, circa 1820. They were wonderful both to look at, and sit in.
A very fine English William IV period mahogany and rosewood brass-inlaid four (4) door cabinet whose doors by Regency brass inlay specialist George Bullock actually came out of the renowned designer Thomas Hope’s famous home The Deepdene at Surrey. Result inc. BP: $26,840.00
There were also a number of bronze objects in the sale, my favourite being the small sculpture of the Education of Achilles.
The Constantia Prospector mahogany bookcase, which iwas centred with a carved figure of a prospector the cornice inscribed and flanked by a Kangaroo and Emu was made in the Constantia workshops of Port Lincoln South Australia 1981. It was commissioned by the late Mr G J Dunstan. The proceeds were donated to the Australiana Fund in memory of Mr Gerald Dunstan, Melbourne.
As a social and cultural historian one of the items of interest for me were a pair of George III period black leather and polychrome decorated fire buckets and they were snapped up in a spirited bidding war.
What a wonderful piece of human evolution they represent, just the very thought that someone would fight a fire raging in an English building, which was probably made with a great deal of timber, with water collected in a vessel 30 cm high is so very difficult in this age of wiz bang technology to imagine.
In recent years the chandelier, with all new energy efficient bulbs in place, has also reclaimed its place as a superb decorative item that draws all to its light.
The very fine pair of six light gilt-wood and cut glass eighteenth century chandeliers from Northern Italy were in the flesh, so to speak, to die for. Elegantly draped the proportion of these was indeed aesthetically very pleasing. They were unsold, amazingly.
Electrified for modern living, it would look truly wonderful in any contemporary or period architectural setting. Sold at $53,680.00 including B.P. it will be sure to continually light up and illuminate its new owner’s life and prove to be a well-purchased asset in the years ahead..
For those who love tradition there was a handsome set of six nineteenth century Thomas Chippendale style mahogany dining chairs and a very fine George III period serpentine mahogany serving table c 1790. They always look the part in any setting and again sold well.
If you are into le style moderne, then it was hard to go past the stylish French Macassar ebony dining table and set of eight chairs that used to belong to chef Damien Pignolet, founder of the Bistro Moncur at Woollahra.
The particularly fine George II red and gold lacquered bureau bookcase, covered in delightful Chinoiserie decoration, which came to Australia from the Channel Islands was exceedingly handsome either open or closed.
The sheer decorative diversity of what was on offer in Part 2 of this amazing sale meant that the items ran out the door. They were snapped up by those who love a good restoration or renovation show on TV. The incredible display had them knocking down the doors on the viewing days, which were continually packed. There were both local and international lookers, as well as many from interstate. One man who flew into from South Africa to Sydney on other business came straight to the showroom as he had seen the sale on Qantas and wanted part of the action.
From an attractively boxed deck of cards to a butterfly collectors case, this part of the sale featured a huge array of smalls, including a divine Victorian Minton Neo-rococo Sevres style dessert service, which was ever so pretty and just the thing for coffee and cake candlelight suppers.
They and other splendid ceramic wares would have been wonderfully illuminated by the splendid range of simply stunning candelabra on offer, or the extensive variety of lovely lamps.
From the counter balanced Edwardian games billiard light to a late eighteenth century George III elm dough bin, there were hundreds and hundreds of decorative arts items that would certainly set anyone up as a renowned style queen among their friends
For anyone setting up an office it was hard to go past the refined black lacquered partner’s desk made in China and its very simple and elegant lines. The 1970’s ‘King Tut’ Sofa Table was enormously useful.
It was certainly one of my picks of the sale and a real bargain at $3,800.
I salivated at the thought of this wonderful light fitting hanging over the pair of Ralph Lauren ‘toast’ suede covered Colorado chairs, with polished brass button detail that had matching ottomans.
They were absolutely terrific and were snapped up quickly. Must admit I wouldn’t have minded placing them in a contemporary room along with the stunning tiger stripe silk carpet from Carini Lang of New York that went for $10,000, as well as just a few other bibs and bobs.
An antique, a classic, a masterpiece or a collectible, whatever you want to call it, something worth restoring, conserving, preserving and collecting should have an aesthetic that pleases the eye, engages the spirit and connects with the soul. It also needs to be made from quality materials and finely and lovingly finished. On top of all the rest if it challenges the mind, like a great work of sculptural art, then for me that is the icing on the cake.
From star lanterns to storm shades there were truly endless possibilities and opportunities for designers, collectors and connoisseurs, as well as home renovators at this outstanding one in a lifetime auction sale. That was reflected in the huge amount of on the floor bidder registrations, as well as telephone and internet bidders. Auctions have truly become established now online.
Everything was so very very stylish that it was just impossible to know which way to advise anyone to go beforehand except to say that they needed to put their money where their heart was, which many it seems did.
One excited buyer waxed lyrical this morning just before I returned to Melbourne, having helped out in the showroom at the viewings, about his many beautiful ‘bargains’. His purchases it seems will be sure to give him many happy hours of viewing in the years ahead.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012
A Collection from Thomas Hamel Interiors & Martyn Cook Antiques
Sydney, 20 May 2012
Among the most beautiful items were two Japanese multi-panel screens, one of which was on the catalogue cover. Not surprisingly they were highly sought after, selling for $17,000 and $16,000 compared with estimates of $5000 to $8000.
310 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Victoria 3141