Art col­lec­tor ‘clean­ing out cup­boards’ for sale


The last time busi­ness­man John Scha­ef­fer off­loaded his art col­lec­tion was 2004 amid a di­vorce and los­ing his con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the Tempo Ser­vices clean­ing busi­ness he founded in 1971.

In re­cent years, Mr Scha­ef­fer has built up an­other col­lec­tion of Vic­to­rian-era art in­clud­ing paint­ings by Fred­eric Leighton, Law- rence Alma-Tadema and Ed­ward John Poyn­ter that cover the walls of his Bellevue Hill, Syd­ney, man­sion, Bon­ning­ton.

He is again clear­ing out a sub­stan­tial part of his col­lec­tion in a sin­gle-ven­dor sale through Sotheby’s Aus­tralia that aims to re­alise more than $4.4 mil­lion. The auc­tion of 56 lots is on April 29.

Among the high­lights are a 2m mar­ble sculp­ture of Or­pheus by Wil­liam Wet­more Story that stands in Mr Scha­ef­fer’s front yard, and Poyn­ter’s paint­ing A Cor­ner of the Mar­ket-Place with its orig­i­nal frame. “In­creas­ingly it is a strug­gle be­tween cash­flow and hav­ing the things,” said Mr Scha­ef­fer, who last month sold a Dover Heights house for $9m. “If it doesn’t sell, no prob­lem, (the art­works) are not at fire-sale prices, they are around the val­ues at which I ac­quired them.”

Mr Scha­ef­fer has a new ob­ses­sion and plans for the Tu­dorstyle Bon­ning­ton. In 2016 he bought a large col­lec­tion of clas­si­cal sculp­ture and ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails from English col­lec­tor Peter Hone. The 120 pieces are wait­ing to be un­packed from a con­tainer.

In­spired by Sir John Soane’s Mu­seum in Lon­don, Mr Scha­ef­fer wants to build a con­ser­va­tory in the gar­den at Bon­ning­ton to house his new col­lec­tion.

“I am look­ing to clean out some cup­boards. I have lovely plans for the rev­enue it will cre­ate, in­clud­ing some im­prove­ments to the house,” he said. Mr Scha­ef­fer has pro­vided ac­qui­si­tion funds or do­nated art­works to the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery — he and Robert Oat­ley helped pur­chase John Web­ber’s 1782 por­trait of Cap­tain Cook — and to the Art Gallery of NSW.

Last year he for­mally do­nated to the AGNSW his Leighton mar­ble sculp­ture An Ath­lete Wrestling with a Python.


Col­lec­tor John Scha­ef­fer with the mar­ble sculp­ture of Or­pheus by Wil­liam Wet­more Story in the gar­den of his Bellevue Hill, Syd­ney, home

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