Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hello cheap art and good buy

Recently dealers in the US and Europe seem to be following a strong trend to look back to find talent.  As the art market grows and the competition for work heats up, they're starting to work with and promote older artists whose reputations may have faded or who never quite hit the commercial jackpot.  Who might fill that spot in NZ?

There are some signs that this trend is already rolling here. For example, Hamish McKay with Don Driver, Michael Lett reaching back into the career of Jim Allen, and FHE giving Marti Friedlander new opportunities to shine. In fact if you’re interested in high quality work at very reasonable prices there's an amazingly rich list to select from.

Don Peebles, possibly hobbled by only ever working in Wellington and Christchurch, is a bargain, particularly for his more experimental works of the mid to late seventies. Gretchen Albrecht is of a later generation but her body of work, the seventies stained canvases (very sought after in the late seventies and early eighties), are now undervalued. Contemporary criticism that they were too close to the work of Helen Frankenthaler was a sideshow (it would hard if not impossible to make as an argument actually standing in front of a work by Frankenthaler). And while there's interest in Don Driver's formal abstractions (still at a very undervalued level) his large scale collaged banners, some of his most important work, are almost given away. Other artists who sell well under what you would expect from the depth and significance of their achievement: Tosswill Woollaston (maybe simply because his work doesn't reproduce well), Giovanni Intra, Richard Killeen and Robert Ellis.

Here by way of examples is what you would have expected to pay for a work based on the average paid at auction over the last five years.

Albrecht seventies colour field paintings $17,300
Driver banner works $9,700
Harris seventies paintings $10,000
Don Peebles small constructions $2100
Woollaston paintings $22,000