Smart painting swaps country life for a land down under - and makes $132,000

A painting that had been lost in the English countryside has been flown across the world to sell for a staggering price in Australia.  The piece, entitled 'Athenian Suburb', was painted by Australian artist Jeffrey Smart - widely considered to be the country's finest living painter.

The oil painting, which depicts houses and advertising hoardings on the edge of the Greek capital, was purchased by Smart's friend Desmond Gregory in Rome in 1964.  It is unclear what happened to it in the 47 intervening years - what is certain is that its re-emergence was a total surprise.

It was discovered in a rural cottage near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, during a routine valuation by Bonhams picture specialist Daniel Wright.  After recognising the work as that of Smart, it was decided that the picture could be sold for more if it were whisked to its author's homeland.


Jeffrey Smart painting
'Well Travelled' - 'Athenian Suburb' sold for $132,000 in Australia

Not only would the picture be more profitable there due to its association with the Island Continent, but it could also take advantage of the flourishing Australian art market. 

This was exemplified by last year's sale of Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly painting, 'The First Class Marksman', which realised $4.9m - a record for an Australian art work.

With that in mind, 'Athenian Suburb' was auctioned by Bonhams in Sydney; and the long journey paid off.  The painting eventually sold for $132,000, a quite amazing achievement for a piece that had effectively vanished until its re-discovery a short time ago.

In a sense, this 'rags to riches' story has two valuable morals.  The first is that collectors, investors or any person might have something hidden away that they never knew was valuable.  The second is that a suitable sale location is essential - it can really boost the value of an asset.


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