Yesterday, we attended a Peter Francis auction at Carmarthen, where Tom, Jean’s dad, had submitted a 5 ft x 7 ft painting by Rolf Harris, depicting the Australian outback. Tom hoped it would fetch around £600. Most of us couldn’t imagine the painting doing well at all. It had been many years since I’d seen it, and I saw just how damaged it was. After 24 other items sold at amounts well below their estimated sale value, some around 50 quid, the auctioneer began on the Rolf Harris.
The auctioneer told the story of how Harris had whipped up the work at the end of a show in Aberystwyth in 1988, when Tom was the stage manager. Harris had suggested it be donated to the children at the local hospital. But the ‘children’ didn’t want it. The Aberystwyth Arts Centre wanted it taken to the tip. Tom had taken it home, and nailed it to the wall in his garage. There it stayed for 24 years, peering down on Tom’s garden tools, tins of petrol etc. Mag, Jean’s mum, had also wanted the piece taken to the tip. Listening to the auctioneer, our hopes of getting much money had by now sunk completely.
We nearly collapsed when the opening bid was £2,500-00. No one in the room bidded. It was all online and by telephone. Tom’s painting, which had languished all those years in his garage, sold for £3,300-00, more than five thousand dollars in Australian money.