Thursday, November 15, 2012

The wrong stuff

More jokes than sales at last night’s Dunbar Sloane auction in Wellington. Even a big push by local media when they came down from planet WTF to up-talk the saleability of Hammonds and Sydneys didn’t help. Stuff/Dominion Post even hauled out one of the owners giving him free range to promote works he had in the sale as “bullet-proof investments” (not for him as it transpired) and to claim that one of his Sydneys was “one of his most significant works”(not really) and that “All the rest are owned by institutions now” (unlikely). The reporter seemed too stunned by this boosterism to bother with questioning whether it’s “rare for significant Sydney and Hammond works to come up for auction” (no).
So how did all this enthusiasm and spruiking pan out at the rostrum? Not so good. Contemporary art took a beating to the sound of Dunbar Sloane’s good-natured-stroke-weird commentary: Hotere “It’s not totally black, it’s got some little red lines there… but you’d need the light on.” The eponymous auctioneer even paused to ask the audience whether or not he should write a book and then called out for a ghost-writer. But one by one the big-ticket items fell under their low estimates (Hammond, Hanly, Hotere and Sydney) often by yawning margins.
Of 26 contemporary lots the bidding reached a total of $544,000 against low estimates totalling $768,000 with 16 of the 26 lots being hammered down, often hopefully, as ‘subject’. A few bargains in Peryer and Fomison but if Dunbar Sloane was to get a smile out of the evening it was going have to be from the long line of traditional landscapes that followed.
Image: Hammond and Maddox wait their turn