Webbs Say 2007 Art Auction Market Standing Strong Despite Reports – Major Significant Items To Be Offered In 2008

The New Zealand art auction market may have eased from the highs of the early 2000s but this year’s results indicate a stable and consistent market for works overall, leading auction house Webb’s said today.

Webb’s managing director Sophie Coupland said gross auction turnover across New Zealand was comparable to last year.

“Our information sits in contrast to the media reporting a drop off in sales this year, particularly at the top end. Our figures show that the market has performed consistently compared to 2006.

“Sales across all auction houses in 2006 came in at around $11.2 million and this year sales should nudge that figure at around $10.8 million.

“Sales for our leading modern masters were strong in Webb’s December sale with most major works selling for around their estimates and demand for some works rocketing prices to top estimates and above. This is an encouraging indicator for 2008 as all eyes are on the market for the likes of Colin McCahon and Bill Hammond as indicators of the strength of the overall market over the coming year.’’

Their top end sales were consistent with the last two years with nine works selling at over $100,000 compared with eight and nine sales over that mark in 2005 and 2006. Again, this runs contrary to the media’s reporting that sales at high levels have dropped off.

Coupland said the most significant trend of 2007 was the readiness of collectors to pay high prices for recent contemporary works, especially photography and sculpture at auction. Major recent works by Peter Robinson, Michael Parekowhai, Andrew McLeod, Rick Killeen, Michael Hight, Ann Robinson and Fiona Pardington are indicative of collectors focussing on major current artists.

Established Contemporary artists such as Dick Frizzell, Michael Smither, Gretchen Albrecht, Peter Siddell, Richard Killeen and Terry Stringer are experiencing strong demand and value growth as collectors chase iconic works from these artists’ bodies of work which now stretch in many cases beyond 30 years.

The works of modern NZ masters remains sought after with the works of Colin McCahon, Gordon Walters, Rita Angus, Bill Hammond, Pat Hanly, Michael Illingworth and Tony Fomison achieving the top prices for the year.

The highest price paid at Webbs this year was Colin McCahon’s Nought and Crosses VII 1965, which sold for $325 000. Charles Goldie’s Te Arani Ngati Whakaue went for $160 000, a Tony Fomison, The Handing On set a new auction record when it sold $150 000 and a Hotere – Le Negro Sobre Lo Oro, 1992 – sold for $135 000.

Webbs said all over their auctions in 2007 saw at least a 20 percent growth in first time auction attendees. This reflects an increased interest in particularly contemporary art by new collectors. We expect these ‘watchers’ to develop into regular buyers as they learn more about the market.

Coupland predicated 2008 will see photography continue its growth in demand particularly known historic images and work by major contemporary photographers such as Peter Peryer, Lawrence Aberhart and Anne Noble. Younger practitioners such as Fiona Pardington, Yvonne Todd and Michael Parekowhai continue to be widely collected.

Works by Petrus van der Velden (Otira Gorge), Dick Frizzell – Bordello in the Congo 1999 and E. Lois White – Eve Tempted – sold at record auction prices. Many other record auction prices were set including top prices for Michael Hight, Terry Stringer, Simon Kaan, Tony Lane, Andrew McLeod, Fiona Pardington, Jude Rae, Greg Semu, Megan Jenkinson, Rick Killeen, John Reynolds, Giovanni Intra and Jim Speers.

Of enormous historical significance for an item next year, is a work by Word War One artist who painted on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Horace Moore-Jones. His most famous subject, painted six times, is Simpson and His Donkey. This subject depicts a soldier who saved wounded soldiers by carrying them on his donkey to safety.

Webb’s offer is the only known night version of this subject and one of only two works outside of institutional collections, to the market. This small watercolour is expected to reach around $100,000.

Also the Dick and Rhoda Potton collection of fine historical works including Nicholas Chevalier, Charles Frederick Goldie, Gottfried Lindauer and Alfred Sharpe will go under the hammer in April.

The Potton collection is one of the finest collections of early New Zealand works of art in private hands. The collection of long time Nelson residents Dick and Rhoda Potton, is distinguished by its focus on South Island landscapes and includes majestic watercolours by pre-eminent 19th century artists Nicholas Chevalier, John Gully and John Barr Clarke Hoyte. The collection also includes portrait of Maori by Charles Frederick Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer and impressionist landscapes by Sydney Lough Thompson and Margaret Stoddart.

Other work to go under the hammer next year will include the most iconic and important Bill Hammond work to have ever come available to the open market. His Fortified Gang Headquarters is to be offered in April. The large format loose canvas from the artist’s iconic ‘Buller Bird’ series is monumental in scale and is of museum quality. www.webbs.co.nz