Friday, February 14, 2014

By the numbers

The battle of the auction houses is up and running for a new year. Webb’s is publishing another of its mags showcasing results achieved and also previewing some of the star attractions for its first high-end contemporary outing at the end of March. No doubt Art + Object will be close behind. Webb’s top 10 prices for last year once again contradict all those who say art isn’t close to a predictable investment. The first six for instance are typical figurative paintings of well-known male artists all of whom have been setting auction records for years. There is only one abstract work in the list, Ralph Hotere’s banner work Vidyapati’s song at spot number 7.

The first and only woman in the list is Evelyn Page (go figure) but this year Webb’s seems to be pushing another female presence into the arena. That would be the artist known as Lillian Budd whose installation Modern world (a key work in the 1992 Headlands exhibition) is estimated in the first 2014 catalogue at between $50,000 and $60,000. This is a huge jump from the prices usually attached to experimental work of this kind even when its provenance is as good as this one. If Webb’s did achieve its estimate it would certainly bring new life to the market and bring NZ into line with overseas auctions that have been foregrounding contemporary work of this kind for a good while now.