Art dealer Denis Savill’s Savill Galleries in Paddington to go under the hammer

Savill Galleries Going to Auction

Denis Savill outside his Savill Galleries site in Paddington with a 1998 painting — by Maynard Waters — of him outside the gallery. Picture: John Appleyard

Art dealer Denis Savill, whose Savill Galleries in Paddington goes under the hammer tomorrow, says if business went bad after his 1985 purchase he was going to turn it into a brothel.

“A well known identity at the time told me ‘you picked the wrong time to start, we’re headed for a full-blown recession and I said ‘Don’t worry, if it goes wrong I’ll turn it into a brothel — there’d been one upstairs previously,” he said.

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Fortunately, Savill didn’t need to resort to such drastic measures. “It’s been a massive success over the years,” he added.

The Hargrave Street premises that he’d purchased for $275,000 36 years ago has a price guide of $4.5m ahead of the auction, and The Agency’s Peter Perry and Ben Collier say those interested include other gallery owners and architects.

The street facade,

Savill Galleries Going to Auction

Savill inside Savill Galleries. Picture: John Appleyard

It offers a 6.1m frontage, has 3.5m ceilings and 286sqm of internal space.

Over the years, his landmark gallery has bought and then sold the work of numerous famous Australian artists including Brett Whiteley, Arthur Boyd, Garry Shead, Geoffrey Smart and Charles Blackman.

“ I was the biggest picture buyer using a chequebook … $38m to $40m of Arthur Boyds, $25m to $30m buying Blackmans … I had a stockpile of 800 paintings so I always had something to sell.”

And he was the go-to gallery owner for a range of famous people.

“John Singleton shopped with me for 30 to 40 years and John Symond was another loyal customer.”


The rear terrace,

Like property, he said the key to selling good art was buying quality.

“It’s like Monopoly – if you’re prepared to buy the best of Point Piper and the best of Woollahra and the best of Darling Point you’re going to do very well.”

As Savill says, he’s “got houses all over the joint”.

He and his partner, Anne Clarke, bought their dream downsizer in Rosemont Ave, Woollahra, for $7.55m in May. “I paid $2.2m over the reserve and I’m very glad to have got it … everyone said it’s a huge price but it said no, it’s the unit I want.”

After the gallery sale, the couple plan to spend more time in Port Douglas and do some travelling.

“We’d like to see the outback of Australia again,” Savill said.

“I used to work 90 hours a week mate — I’m not the cleverest and I’m not the brightest but I sure am the hardest worker.”