Sunday, April 15, 2018


Yet  more  intriguing  anecdotes  and  discoveries  continue   to  surface  about  the    art  researcher ,  collector, onetime  Canberra statistician  , Margaret Vine , who  died  recently, aged 81, her  ashes soon to be  scattered  about  Magnetic  Island .
A small photograph of her pet  Beagle , Ponsonby , above ,  mentioned  previously in  this  blog , shows  him  sitting  on  a lounge , possibly three or more  decades ago ,  in  Coronation Drive , Toowong, Brisbane , books, some  pieces  of  pottery and  wall  hangings  in  the  background .  
 By Peter Simon
While helping   Margaret  cull  and sort  her impressive book collection  last year , I  mentioned   that  during  the  mad  Poseidon  share  boom   period of l969-l970   in  Australia  I  had covered  the so called  luxury beat  for  the  Sun  Herald,  the nation's  then  largest  selling Sunday paper .

This  involved going to auctions ,  mixing with the  jubilant  nouveau  rich  in  the public gallery at the  Sydney Stock Exchange ,  contacting  leading  jewellers such as  Prouds, Hardy Brothers, Angus and Coote -in Margaret's numerous reference   books  was   By Appointment, the history of Hardy Brothers , 1780-1980, by Gail  Franzmann, the company commissioned to  make a  gold trowel and mallet presented to  King George V  in  1913 , the l934 Centenary Air  Race Trophy , a tea tree spray  brooch  for  Princess Alexandra  and  started on  its first  Melbourne Cup in  1980.The high flying former  finance   journalist   Christopher  Skase  took  over  the company  in 1979  through   Qintex  Limited ,  then  departed   for  Spain  faster than Phar Lap  when  the  crash  came .  

 On  my  rounds  I  had  been  shown  large diamonds,  picture  opals , sapphires in various colours  ,  rarities  and  oddities  held    in   strongrooms, sworn to secrecy by a  jewellery firm  making  life  sized  copies of  Australian  animals  in  gold and  gemstones  for   a  Sultan .
 Even got  an invite from  Junie  Morosi  to  a  Christmas  party . Her  later involvement with Dr Jim Cairns helped bring down the Whitlam  Government; recently she came out and attacked the media  for  their treatment of  Barnaby Joyce  and  his  staff  member.

I told  Margaret  of  an  episode  that   took  place when I attended   the  first    auction  conducted in  Sydney by  the international   firm   Christie's .  An Australian  painting  owned by  James Fairfax, of  the  Fairfax media family, had been knocked down for  about  20 grand . However , a member of  the  well  heeled   and   attired   crowd ,  complained  to  the  auctioneer  that  he  still  had  his   hand   up, wanting to  bid.  The  auction resumed , and   the painting went  for  several  thousands   more .

Margaret  responded    by  giving  me  catalogues for auctions  and invitations  to various galleries and exhibitions.  On  quick  perusal  some time later , a  l998  catalogue for  a   Sydney auction  of  20th century art  and  design  was found  to  contain   handwritten  notes by  Margaret ,  corrections to  the text , plus penned in actual  sale prices ,  for the  pottery  offerings , which  included  a  Madoura  pottery vase  designed  by  Pablo Picasso , expected to  fetch  up  to  $9000. There had also been a large  number of  paintings  by Northern Territory Aboriginal  artists   in  the  auction.

At  the time , I made a mental note to ask  her about  this  auction and  others she  may have  attended. Because of  her  deteriorating health, the opportunity to  pursue  this  subject at length  ,  like  so many  of  her brief  anecdotes, unfortunately,  did  not arise .
Just this  week ,   again  glancing through   that  same   1998  catalogue , with several seemingly unconnected   inserts , you  could  have  knocked me  over  with a  proverbial feather . There ,  in  a  fullplate  illustration ,  above, was  one  of  the  pieces of  pottery  behind Margaret's Beagle : a  Brett  Whitely cobalt blue   rendition of   Madam Lash  on a glazed white  Derek Smith  stoneware vase !!!!  Ex  the  Kim Bonython Collection, it was estimated  to  sell  for   $9000-$12,000.

It is a good thing  that the Beagle , which exchanged Christmas  cards  with the female Dachshund owned  by the couple who  ran the  Johstone Gallery in  Brisbane , mentioned previously in this blog covering   another interesting  part of  Margaret's    life,   did  not get excited  while   having  his   photo  taken  and  wag  his  tail , or  else  Madam Lash  could  have  been whipped  into  a  pile  of   worthless  shards.   
A folded   photocopy  of  a   Sydney Morning Herald  article by its arts editor , Peter Cochrane , dated  October 15, 1998 , inserted  in  the  catalogue,  then was found to  have  relevance  .  Headed   WELCOME  TO THE FROCKY HORROR  SHOW : JUST A LITTLE  SOMETHING  I WHIPPED UP  , it  included  a bondage outfit  designed by  Sydney artist, fashion designer  and  dominatrix ,   Gretel  Pinniger , for  her alter ego, Madam Lash , on  the  right . Renowned for  throwing lavish parties at Palm Beach , she it  was who  inspired  Brett  Whiteley's  stoneware  vase,  which  in  recent  times  has  rocketed  in  value .    
The report  covered   a National Gallery of Australia exhibition ,Wall to Wall, which included a pair of  Mary Quant vinyl red shoes , a hat from the London production of  My Fair Lady.