THE GEOFFREY BURKE COLLECTION

We never had the pleasure of meeting the late Geoffrey Burke. We never heard his thoughts about collecting, conserving, or encouraging creativity, and sadly, it wasn’t until he passed away, that we were introduced to the diversity and depth of his artistic vision.

By all reports, Geoffrey was a quiet and introverted man, but a man of wide interests, considerable intellect and a healthy sense of humour. As we worked our way through the enormous collection he had assembled, we feel we got to know and understand him very well. The acquisition of pieces – paintings, ceramics, photographs, posters, glass sculptures or books – clearly gave him tremendous pleasure, satisfied an intellectual curiosity, and gave expression to a sense of wonderment at just how diverse and changing creative expression had become, especially during the evolutionary years of the 20th Century.

Clearly, Geoffrey also had a very open mind, finding beauty and value in many different forms of artistic expression. We hope that through the pages of this catalogue you will discover a sense of the man and his interests and, that like us, you will appreciate the learning experience that becoming familiar with his collection will give you.

Expect to be surprised as you find Andy Warhol alongside Keith HaringEd Ruscha joined by Russell DrysdaleMurano glass and Fornasetti sharing pages with Arthur Merric Boyd and psychedelic posters alongside bronze Buddhas.

We would like to thank the members of Geoffrey’s family for entrusting us with the fascinating and challenging task of preparing the collection for its’ journey into new lives and homes. We hope you will enjoy the catalogue and trust we will be hearing from many of you in the coming weeks.

Contents

Session 1
Saturday 26 September 12.00pm AEST
001-200 Scandinavian & Murano Glass
201-285 International Porcelain & Ceramics
286-419 Australian Pottery
420-478 Australian Art Glass

Session 2
Sunday 27 September 12.00pm AEST

479-481 Antiquities
482-578 Chinese & Asian
579 -591 Silver & Jewellery
592-599 General
600-622 Furniture
623-653 Lamps & Lighting
654-661 Clocks & Mechanical
662-692 Photographs
693-706 Posters
707-749 Books & Documents
750-840 Paintings & Artworks
841-849 Fossills & Minerals
850-893 Tribal Artefacts & Artworks
894-897 Collectables

Biography

No one in the Burke family has any idea where Geoffrey acquired his passion for, and taste in, the decorative arts. There is no family tradition of any such interest and, descending from families with limited incomes and little capacity to accommodate such a passion, it is somewhat surprising  that we can now reflect on this wonderfully diverse and fascinating collection of 20th century artefacts that Geoffrey assembled over the last sixty years of his life.

Geoffrey’s passion for the decorative arts appeared quite early. When other teenagers were out playing football and developing first relationships, Geoffrey was buying books, reading about art and beginning the collection you will find in this catalogue. He was not totally divorced from teenage fashion and trends however, as he developed an interest in British rock music – the fashion, the art, the gender-bending imagery – the whole seismic cultural shift that the “swinging ‘60s” embodied. All this had a powerful impact on Geoffrey, with the music opening up a wide, curious and deeply knowledgeable interest in the artefacts of this era. Glassware, pottery, posters, clothes and books reflecting these developments were among the earliest acquisitions. Not many teenagers in the mid-1960s could show their often-puzzled relatives, an Andy Warhol print or a book of photographs by Ed Ruscha!

Despite his wide and widening interests, Geoffrey’s favourite early purchases and one area he added to for the rest of his life, was Murano glassware of the 1950s and 1960s. Geoffrey felt that the glassware of that era represented the pinnacle of creativity in that field, especially before the Murano and other glassware manufacturers lost something of their direction in subsequent decades.

In 1968 the Beatles, seeking something spiritual in their lives, went to India and started a ripple effect that would influence generations of young people for decades; and Geoffrey was one of them. From 1969 onwards for a decade or so, Geoffrey would visit India and engage in the Indian rituals that The Beatles gave focus to – ashram and meditation, vegetarianism and stripped back living (not that the Beatles set much of an example as far as that was concerned). For Geoffrey, ever the collector with the fine eye, the interest in Indian spiritualism also drew his attention to Indian art and artefacts and so a new area of collection began to emerge. Once his attention was drawn to the indigenous art of one county, of one culture, it was almost inevitable that his eye would be drawn to the African, Asian and Australian indigenous artefacts which also found their ways into his collection.

Geoffrey had no artistic talent himself other than being a fine amateur photographer and he had no formal training in the fine arts. His knowledge was acquired through exhaustive reading and with an innate ability to be able to identify objects and art pieces that would have enduring worth. These capabilities were sufficient for him, on leaving secondary school in 1965 to get an assistant curators’ role at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), where he worked for the next 28 years, before taking early retirement.  That long and fruitful employment gave him the opportunity to hone his skills and a context in which to apply his knowledge.

Reflective of his abilities to read trends in popular culture and the collectables associated with these trends, were some of his early donations to the NGV. Very few people in the late 1970 and early 1980s for example, would have foreseen the cultural significance of an Adidas trainer, a Calyx table lamp, Trippi boots or an Aleks Danko hessian bag enamel artwork. All of these were amongst many items Geoffrey gifted to the NGV in the 1980s.

Another of Geoffrey’s contributions to the NGV was his photograph of Keith Haring’s creation of a mural on Melbourne’s NGV Water Wall. Without any templates or sketches to rely on, and using a cherry picker, Haring created the large scale mural from white, black and red paint, taking just two days to complete the work. It was the first artwork to ever be painted on the NGV Water Wall and his photos are the only record. [The original photos and negatives are offered in this catalogue.]

Geoffrey never left his parents’ modest suburban home in Melbourne. When his mother, Beryl, and his father, Chris, both died in the early 1990s, he retired from the NGV and although living on a modest income, devoting himself to collecting. He moved out of the two bedroom house into a bungalow out the back, and this meant the whole house became a repository for the ever expanding collection. To Italian glassware was added European and Japanese Pottery, Australian craft ware, painted skateboards, Italian 1960s standard lamps and even Space Invader mosaics.

In these “retirement” years Geoffrey would spend much of his time visiting galleries, vintage bazaars, and potteries, enjoying coffee and conversation with staff and often buying something that would enhance his collection. Geoffrey never owned a computer nor a mobile phone, so collecting was done via face to face contact or through networking. The Geoffrey Burke collection is a testimony to what can be assembled on a limited income but with an excellent eye for originality, creativity, innovation and the value of artistic friendships.

 

Featured Lots

Lot 6

DINO MARTENS for Aureliano Toso "Smergo" Murano glass bird vase, for Aureliano Toso, circa 1959.
Ref. Marc Heiremans "Dino Martens" page 129 and 135.
47.5cm high

Est: $4,000 - $6,000

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Lot 16

CENEDESE Pulegoso circular vase with five horizontal coloured bands, circa 1970,
engraved "Cenedese", with original foil label "Cenedese Murano Vetri",
25cm high, 29cm wide

Est: $1,000 - $1,500

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Lot 18

SEGUSO tall flared Sommerso Murano glass vase in red and amber by Flavio Poli, circa 1950's,
32cm high

Est: $1,200 - $2,000

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Lot 30

VENINI Pezzati patchwork Murano glass vase by GIANNI VERSACE, circa 1997,
engraved "Venini, '97, Gianni Versace", with original label and original box,
26.5cm high

Est: $1,200 - $2,000

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Lot 32

BARBINI for CENEDESE Murano Aquarium glass fish block, circa 1960,
23cm high, 30cm wide, 6cm deep

Est: $2,500 - $3,500

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Lot 34

TIMO SARPANEVA Kukinto Murano vase for VENINI, circa 1992,
engraved "Venini, '92, Sarpaneva" with original label "Venini, Murano, Made In Italy",
42cm high, 42cm wide,

Est: $2,500 - $3,500

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Lot 204

AMPHORA Austrian Art Nouveau porcelain statue, circa 1900,
stamped "Imperial Amphora, Turn Austria" with crown mark,
54cm high

Est: $800 - $1,200

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Lot 231

ARTIST UNKNOWN pottery face mask vase adorned with grapes and leaves, most likely Italian, mid 20th century,
20cm high

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 236

TROIKA pottery "Chimney" vase by Benny Sirota, circa 1970,
signed "Troika, St. Ives, England" with "BS" monogram,
20cm high

Est: $200 - $300

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Lot 296

WILLIAM RICKETTS "Kwain Kwain" pottery face plaque,
titled in pencil verso,
incised "Wm. Ricketts",
11.5cm high

Est: $150 - $250

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Lot 307

NEIL DOUGLAS pottery bowl,
signed underglaze "Neil Douglas",
5.5cm high, 17cm diameter

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 423

GILES BETTISON (born 1966),
Billet #13,
Murrini glass vase,
engraved "Giles Bettison, '05",
22cm high.

Est: $3,000 - $5,000

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Lot 479

An Egyptian green faience shabti, late period 664-332 B.C.
on later wooden base with label "RICHARD H. BLANCHARD, Guaranteed Antiquities, Cairo, Egypt, ",
17cm high

Est: $3,000 - $5,000

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Lot 486

Sino-Tibetan bronze Buddha, 16th/17th century,
14.5cm high

Est: $1,500 - $2,500

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Lot 586

WILLIS & SONS of Melbourne 15ct gold and diamond bar brooch, 19th century,
stamped "15ct" with anchor and star with bar mark,
5cm long, 4 grams total

Est: $300 - $500

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Lot 595

FORNASETTI "Occhi" tray, lithographed enamel on tin, circa 1950's,
circular label verso "Fornasetti, Milano, Made In Italy",
25 x 59cm

Est: $800 - $1,200

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Lot 600

GIO PONTI Italian spade back dining chair, ebonised finish with cane seat, mid 20th century,
with makers label "Sedie Sanguineti, Chiavari, Colombo, Sanguineti, Italia"

Est: $150 - $250

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Lot 610

A vintage retro four drawer coffee table, teak with woven cane shelf, circa 1960,
55cm high, 134cm wide, 52cm deep

Est: $800 - $1,200

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Lot 630

CLEMENT MEADMORE "Calyx" standard lamp, circa 1953,
125cm high

Est: $1,500 - $2,500

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Lot 681

RUSSELL DRYSDALE (1912 - 1981)
Coen Races, Cape York Peninsula 1951
(Aboriginal riders up; the crowd behind the fence)
two (2) black & white photographs
both approx. 24 x 24cm.

Est: $400 - $600

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Lot 760

KEITH HARING (1958-1990),
Untitled
ink on card,
signed and endorsed "K. Haring, For Geoff"
26 x 18cm

Est: $5,000 - $10,000

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Lot 854

A Kanak flèche faîtière (roof finial), carved wood, New Caledonia, 19th century,
111cm high

Est: $800 - $1,200

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