Here’s an interesting postscript to
our report yesterday (item 21) about the doubtful provenance of a picture of Ned Kelly said
to be by Sid Nolan that was auctioned at Deutscher-Menzies in Sydney earlier
this week.

I speculated yesterday that whoever bought Kelly with Rifle liked it so much that
they wanted to own it regardless of who did it. Well, it wasn’t quite like that.
In fact, the negative vibe surrounding Lot 112 meant that Deutscher-Menzies owner
Rod Menzies had to stump up $18,000 of his own dough to buy the picture to stay
sweet with the vendor, an unidentified Melbourne lawyer.

The picture, a small mixed media work on paper signed with the single
initial “N”, had an estimated price range of $18,000 to $24,000.
Deutscher-Menzies executive director Chris Deutscher tried to put the
best possible spin on the situation by saying, “Rod Menzies has put his
money where his mouth is”. He acknowledged that several potential
buyers had been scared off by the controversy surrounding the picture,
which had once belonged to the late Gordon House, an English painter
reportedly linked to a number of suspect Nolans.

“We had a stunning auction I feel great and this Nolan thing is a pain”, a
clearly exasperated Deutscher told Crikey before getting on a plane bound for
the Basel Art Fair in Switzerland.

Deutscher claimed the media was being manipulated by an art dealer he
refused to name. He repeated his earlier claim that the picture had been checked
by the director of Australian Galleries, Stuart Purvis, and an unidentified
curator from a state gallery. Deutscher said Purvis and the curator had offered the
advice on a “friendly level” and that they had not been paid to authenticate the
picture. Deutscher said he now regretted mentioning Purvis’s name to the media.

Crikey has been told that Purvis is furious that his name has been linked
to the story. He arrived back in Melbourne from Europe this morning but has so
far not responded to my phone and email messages seeking confirmation that he
did, in fact, authenticate the Nolan.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey