Fairfax chairman to sell $1.6m art collection

The former chairman of the Fairfax publishing company is to put his extensive art collection under the hammer next week.

The collection of James Fairfax will also include two of the earliest formal sculptures made in Australia.

The collection predicted to bring up to $1.6m when they are auctioned at Sotheby's in Melbourne on August 24 and 25.

Artworks for sale include Jeffrey Smart's 1972 oil on canvas The Painted Factory, Tuscany, expected to sell for $800,000.

A Sidney Nolan depiction of the Burke and Wills expedition which could make $500,000.

Aside from paintings, a pair of early Australian colonial busts created by Benjamin Law in 1835 and 1836 will be greeted with enthusiasm at Sotheby's.

The busts depict two of the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigines, local chief Woureddy and his wife Truganini.

They had been on loan to the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra this year, and are expected to fetch $700,000.

While prices have dropped slightly in the past year, Ms Georgina Pemberton, Sotheby's head of Australian paintings, told ABC News that she is confident the auction will meet expectations.

"We work hard to make sure what we have on offer is of a certain quality. We have kept a high standard," she said.

"The fact that a huge number of the works have never been to auction or never been seen publicly or been available for sale for decades, that creates a great excitement."

The recession-hit property group Austcorp will also have 73 pieces of work on sale.

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