Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hammer heads

Since the appearance of Art +Object in 2007 the Auckland auction world has been nothing if not exciting. A+O shook Webb’s initially with a super-energetic jump out of the starting gate that included smart catalogues, a front foot approach to collectors and the shock of the new. It didn’t take Webb’s long to catch up and now both houses produce catalogues that can match anything in the world for panache. Then a couple of years ago A+O scored the Les and Milly Paris collection from under Webb’s noses. Lots of talk followed about how A+O managed such a coup, most of it around massive reductions in commissions when the two houses struggled to secure what turned out to be a $4.5 million dollar sale.

Now the word on the street is that yesterday Webb’s has made another mega move with the trimming of staff, reduction in its range of sale catagories and its intention to put art front and centre. At least part of this strategy probably lies at the door of 51 percent shareholder John Mowbray. His stamp business Mowbray Collectables has struggled on the stock market since listing and he’d be looking for a leg up from the art biz.

Another player behind this tighter focus on art (and lets face it we’re talking modern and contemporary art) would have to be investment guru and art collector Christopher Swasbrook who was made chairman of the Webb’s part of the Mowbray collectables empire last year. You can see what he thinks is the sort of art that has pull by visiting his collection web site here. A+O has never been backward in coming forward when a challenge is issued so watch out for some action over the next six months.