Australian "Ned Kelly" painting sells for record

Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:07am EDT
 
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's most expensive painting, a Sidney Nolan "Ned Kelly" work, was given away on Wednesday only days after setting the nation's art record.

The painting, titled "First-Class Marksman," of Australia's iconic outlaw sold at auction last Thursday for A$5.4 million (US$4.96 million).

Less than a week later the previously anonymous buyer, the Gleeson O'Keefe Foundation, stepped forward and donated the painting to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney.

"They've bought this really signature Nolan work for us, which we are absolutely thrilled about and it was A$5.4 million and it looks fantastic on our wall," said Clare Martin, the gallery's media manager.

Dubbed the missing Nolan, art market experts say the painting reached a staggering price because it was the only work in the Ned Kelly series that remained in private hands. The other 26 are at the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.

Sidney Nolan is considered Australia's most internationally acclaimed artist. Nolan died in 1992.

"First Class Marksman" depicts Kelly wearing a square metal helmet over his head, which he used as amour to protect himself from police, and pointing a rifle into the Australian bush.

"I think this sale certainly puts us on the world stage and indeed a record for Australian art," Litsa Veldekis, chief executive officer of Menzies Auctions in Sydney, told Reuters.   Continued...