Monday, November 18, 2013

Auction fever

If you were wondering how NZ's two main contemporary art auction houses differ, Wellington was the place to do it last week. Both Art + Object and Webb’s did the man-in-a-van thing and brought down samplers of what's coming up in their next auctions. One (A+O) showed their wares in the white cube(ish) spaces of 30 Upstairs on Courtenay Place and the other (Webb’s) on the dark panelled walls of The Young up the hill.

A + O promoted their offering via one of their distinctively oversized catalogues while Webb’s returned to a more conventional Sotheby’s-like format complete with a magazine front section.  Both catalogues featured a fold out, Webb’s for Bill Hammond and A+O for Ralph Hotere.

As usual the core offerings are pretty similar. Both include Michael Smither (two sixties domestic paintings), Peter Robinson (A+O four, Webb’s six), Michael Illingworth, Peter Peryer (both offering his portrait of Christine Mathieson, Webb’s with a low estimate of $5,000 to A+O’s $7,000), Pat Hanly, Michael Parekowhai (A+O a couple of photographs and Webb’s a maquette for the rejected 2002 proposal for The Christchurch Square), Don Driver (both including a work featuring sacks spills that could have been made the same day but are in fact separated by 14 years) and  Frizzell (A+O two, Webb’s six).

And the differences? A+O have works by Ted Bullmore and Julian Dashper on offer, Webb’s have half a dozen by Ralph Hotere,  a couple by C F Goldie and six works by Bill Hammond.

Of course the big difference is in sheer volume. Webb’s are presenting 103 lots that they are hoping will fetch (on low estimate) $3.15 million. A+O are going for $1.96 million (on low estimate) from 69 lots. Webb’s are putting up seven works valued over $100,000 on low estimate to A+O’s two.

So 26 November for A+O and two days later for Webb’s. Game on.
Images: left, A+O present Smither at 30 Upstairs and right Smither via Webb's at The Young