“We thought they would be perfect for our first Modern British sale, not only because of the local Chiswick connection but also because Myers is not well-known as an artist,” she said.
The group fitted well with Kuneva’s aim to showcase a larger quantity of material by “new and less-established names on the auction market”, as well as more mainstream artists.
In the buoyant Mod Brit market, where demand is outstripping supply, the potential for relatively unknown entities such as Myers is an exciting prospect for auction houses.
“There still has not been enough recognition at auction for the £200 to £10,000 level of the market – there is potential here and we want to explore that,” said Kuneva.
Myers was a student at the Royal College of Art – the same intake as Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach – but became better known as a writer and teacher. He taught at the Royal College of Art from 1961-80 and was an early advocate of the relationship between art, science and technology. The British inventor James Dyson was one of his pupils.
Ten of Myers’ works, dating to the 1950s and consigned directly from his widow, featured in Chiswick’s inaugural 156-lot Modern & Post War British art auction on April 10 in London – the latest in a series of specialist sales launched by the west London saleroom since the closure of Christie’s South Kensington.
Drawing predominately UK interest from private and trade buyers, the group all sold to the tune of £9500 – effectively kickstarting the market for his work.
The collection was led by The Town, c.1955-6, a signed 2ft 1in x 2ft 5in (63 x 75cm) oil on board of a pixelated, almost Cubist, view of London. It sets the benchmark for the artist at auction, selling to a private buyer at £1500, more than double the guide.
Bold, abstract coastal views also featured. The pick among them was Seascape, a 2ft 1in x 2ft 10in (65 x 86cm) oil on canvas-board that sold for £1100 against an estimate of £500-700.
The sole figurative entry was a 20 x 16in (50 x 40.5cm) oil on canvas-board of a seated young man, probably Myers himself, wearing a brown suit and tie. Double-signed, it sold at twice its top guide to a private buyer for £1000.
Bratby kitchen sink appeal
Elsewhere, the sale included two market-fresh pictures by one of Myers’ more established contemporaries, Kitchen Sink School painter John Bratby (1928-92). Dating from the 1960s, both well-preserved paintings had belonged to the late British Conservative politician, Gary Waller.
A 3ft 10in x 2ft 10in (1.17m x 86cm) oil still-life of pineapples proved the more desirable of the two, selling for £11,000 against a £2000-4000 guide. Just a handful of pineapple-themed pictures have appeared on the market, and none in the last five years according to online art price databases.
The other, larger, 5ft x 2ft 6in (1.54m x 76cm) oil on canvas of two women in a studio from c.1958 achieved a double-estimate £8500.
Mannequin by Youngman stands up
Titled Mannequin, a 1940s limewood carving by Harold James Youngman (b.1886) got away towards its upper guide in the inaugural sale of Modern & Post War British art at Chiswick Auctions.
Not seen in public since 1949 when it was exhibited at Leeds City Art Gallery alongside works by artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, the 2ft 2in (65cm) high piece sold for £3800. It had descended through the family of Zelda Wallis, the probable model for the work, who is also known to have modelled for other artists like Moore and Arthur Rackham.
The sum is among the highest for Youngman, who is not widely established on the secondary market. Just a clutch of works has been offered to date, the majority fetching between £300-2000 and primarily made from bronze.
The sculpture section was led by a carved ‘cracked’ egg by British wood sculptor David Nash (b.1945). Dating from 1992, the 20in x 3ft 3in (52 x 99cm) piece sold above estimate for £7500 to a private UK buyer – among the highest prices at auction for one of Nash’s egg sculptures.