The Watson's premises suffered extensive damage in the 2010-11 Christchurch earthquakes and the firm has been inactive since then.
Macalister purchased Watson's, the South Island's leading auction house in 2006, following his return from overseas posts in London, South Africa and America.
W.T. Macalister's first sale, "40 Years of Leo Bensemann" on 28 March, 2012 will offer 18 works by the artist, and two sketches by his contemporary Rita Angus, who briefly shared a studio with Bensemann and invited him to join the quintessential artistic organisation "The Group" (1927-77).
The Australian Art Sales Digest lists 66 works by Leo Bensemann offered for sale between 2003 and 2011, with none offered prior to 2003. The highest price recorded to date for the artist was $NZ35,520 for <i>Self Portrait</i>sold by Webb's Auckland in 2003. The headline work for the Macalister sale has the same title, but is considerably larger (61.3 x 62.3 cm v 34.5 x 31.5 cm) and is estimated at $NZ30,000 - 35,000.
The auction will be held at the five star George Hotel in Christchurch, but W T Macalister does plan to build a state of the art gallery and auction rooms.
The new business continues the trend for auction houses to sell by exhibition, the method traditionally the province of the commercial gallery, either within the auction house premises, or in a separate wholly owned gallery.