Chris Deutscher and Damien Hackett’s departure from auction house Deutscher-Menzies has raised more than a few eyebrows in the industry.

With a plethora of quotes from secondary market players, the report in The Oz left the impression that Deutscher and Hackett would be going into direct competition with other auction houses including Sotheby’s, Joel’s Fine Art and Bonhams and Goodman.

But according to industry sources, the pair are planning a new venture based on the “Mossgreen model” – a hybrid business model named for Paul Sumner’s successful Mossgreen Gallery in South Yarra. Deutscher and Hackett will deal secondary market art, but they’ll also stage exhibitions of contemporary art by primary market artists as well as handle sale by private treaty. It’s an approach that more and more secondary market dealers are adopting.

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“Deutscher and Hackett’s strategy will be quite successful in the short term,” art market analyst Michael Reid told Crikey. “They have a lot of experience, they know everyone and where all the good paintings are buried.”

In the long term, however, Reid sees problems. “Running any kind of auction business has breathtakingly expensive overheads. Most auction houses have a massive publicity machine working behind them to reach out to potential buyers and sellers, sale after sale. You have to match it somehow.”

With the departure of Deutscher came the revelation that Adrian Newstead will step into the role of executive director at Menzies. Newstead has served as Lawson-Menzies head of Aboriginal art in Sydney and starts his new role with far more experience in dealing Indigenous art than with the sort of expertise required to run a Melbourne-based auction house with a company focus on major sales of contemporary and traditional Australian art.

Newstead may also find it hard to keep up his other jobs running on the side. Before joining Lawson-Menzies, he was best known as the indefatigable proprietor of Coo-ee Aboriginal Emporium and Art Gallery opening on Oxford Street, Paddington. Newstead was a pioneer of the Indigenous art trade, personally sourcing works from remote communities for resale in the big smoke. Newstead’s gallery-shop ran for 23 years before moving to Bondi Beach with a new premises attached to his home.

How Newstead will find time to run Deutscher-Menzies is a major mystery.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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