By Briar Williams in Auckland, on 29-Nov-2019

The final sale for 2019 by International Art Centre, held on 27 November was titled Modern and Contemporary. Although IAC had held a major sale just 4 weeks prior, they were able to consign 170 lots of mainly low to mid range paintings with a few higher value items included. Following the trend from Art + Object the night before, the crowd at IAC was noticeably fewer than usual, numbering about 60 when the auction started. However a large number of clients had left bids and others were bidding on the phone as expected at this time of year.

The final International Art Centre sale for 2019, held on 27 November was titled Modern and Contemporary and realised approximately $475,000. An exceptional example of Michael Parekowhai’s lightbox The Bosom of Abraham (Lot 7 ), was the first work to take off, selling for $21,000, well above the high estimate of $16,000, setting a new record for this work at auction.

An exceptional example of Michael Parekowhai’s lightbox The Bosom of Abraham (Lot 7 ), was the first work to take off, selling for $21,000, well above the high estimate of $16,000, setting a new record for this work at auction. Parekowhai produced these popular lightboxes in 1999 and over the years the red colour has faded on most examples coming to the market, but this work with its strong colours was as though it had been newly created.

IAC once again exceeded expectations for Karl Maughan with Sentinel Rd 5 (Lot 27 ), realising $42,000 against a $25,000-$35,000 estimate. The second Maughan, Sentinel Rd 3, (Lot 30 ) made $28,000 against the same estimate. These two works were dated 2019, as was another sold by IAC in May, so maybe the purchasers of these works from the gallery exhibitions earlier this year are taking advantage of the booming auction prices.

The cover lot, Max Gimblett Temple (Lot 31 ) failed to find favour at an estimate of $20,000-$30,000, perhaps because of its unusual stepped cross format, but the more conventional horizontal diptych The Cathedral of Silence (Lot 32 ) had a better reception realising $24,000 against a $20,000 low estimate.

IAC auction room favourite, Peter Siddell was represented by Eastern Cloud (Lot 35 ) which was promptly dispatched on the money at $40,000 but the following lot, another hyper-realistic work, Martin Ball’s large scale portrait of artist Ralph Hotere was perhaps too real and large for the buyers walls at over 2 metres in width, and failed to sell at $20,000.  

A late work by Toss Woollaston (Lot 38 ) Riwaka Wharf was determinedly bid in the room, with one private client volleying his bids straight back against a consultant, with the work knocked down to the private client at the high estimate of $40,000

Michael Smither’s Parihaka, South Taranaki (Lot 39 ), a well provenanced and well exhibited painting of a recognisable Smither-type landscape of rocks, driftwood and rolling hills carried an estimate of $70,000-$100,000, but didn’t attract interest until the auctioneer dropped the starting bid to $40,000 where it was knocked down, subject in the room and was subsequently sold post auction.

Is Garth Tapper becoming the new auction favourite of 2019? This year there have been some fantastic examples offered at auction by New Zealand’s foremost social realist painter and they have all been sold well. This is a welcome relief as he has been undervalued for years. Tapper is well known for depicting images from all walks of life from the High Court to Gum Diggers and 9am Pub Scene – Race Day (Lot 45 ) showed another quintessential aspect of life. The work realised $10,500 against an $8,000 low estimate which doesn’t seem a large margin. But it was heartening to see a large number of bidders including two phone bidders compete for this work and I’m sure this interest will continue in the coming years as more fine examples come to market.

Towards the end of the sale, a selection of historical and collectable lots were offered. These didn’t fare so well within a Modern and Contemporary sale. A highlight of this section was Petrus van der Velden’s sombre Grandfather & Child (Lot 116 ). This beautifully painted study of a family group housed in an original ornate acanthus leaf frame was offered unreserved and sold just above the low estimate for $8,500. Paintings such as this were the mainstay of the auction rooms in the 1970s and 1980s and would have sold for about the same price at that time, illustrating the shift in fashion over a 30 year period.

The sale realised approximately $475,000 on the night and finished off another successful year for the International Art Centre. Their sales this year have achieved a new record high for Michael Smither, and also set the top prices for the year for Don Binney. IAC celebrates 50 years in business in 2020, and the team will be keen to secure some interesting consignments to mark the event.


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About The Author

Briar Williams is an Art Valuer and Auctioneer who has worked in the primary and secondary markets of New Zealand and Australia for over 15 years. In Melbourne she managed a commercial gallery and was a valuer at Leonard Joel Auctioneers & Valuers before becoming Head of Art there in 2009. Most recently, she was the manager of the art department at Mossgreen-Webb's in Auckland and currently works as an art writer and consultant.