Monday, October 15, 2007

Separated at birth

The battle of the auction houses has certainly stepped up the number of contemporary art auctions in Auckland. It’s hard to imagine there are enough people on earth to buy all the stuff that is put on the block month by month. Works fly from one auction to another with barely time to breathe between sales, let alone research and check catalogue details. An example is lot number 25, a Julian Dashper multiple, in the catalogue of Webb’s 16 October sale. It was last sold in Art+Object’s 3 May auction as lot number 8 and fetched $14,000 and just four-and-a-half months later it is back on the block. The price estimate by Webb’s is between $12,000 and $16,000 and the work is described by Jonathan Organ in Webb’s online video as being “…originally shown in an exhibition with six other pieces, so there were seven drumskins in the show. So it is a one off piece, a unique piece.” Well, not really. This work was in fact from an edition of three and to the best of our knowledge has only ever been shown as an individual item, representing the edition. Webb’s and Art+Auction have always been quick to rectify cataloguing mistakes when they are alerted to them, so most often no harm is done. Is precise cataloguing expected in this sort of sale? Probably not, but Webb’s in particular do claim their staff as “fine art experts” and promote, via their lecture series and catalogue entries, a close association with “leading art historians, curators and architects”, which certainly implies a rigorous standard.
Images: Catalogues from Art+Object, top and Webb's, bottom.