By Briar Williams in Auckland, on 20-Nov-2021

Heading into the International Art Centre’s (IAC) final Important and Rare Art auction for 2021 on 16 November 2021 in Auckland, I did wonder whether the $14 million worth of art sold by Art + Object and Webb’s over the weekend had possibly emptied the pockets the New Zealand art market and this sale may not have been as bouyant as others held in IAC’s 50th year in business.

C.F Goldie’s 'Hori Pokai – A Sturdy Stubborn Chief' 1919 (above) was a headline painting with great provenance. The estimate of $500-$700,000 was generous given the size of 26 x 21 cm, but after opening at the low estimate, the painting sold for $1,420,000 after 30 bids, setting a new auction record for the sale of a work by Goldie.

I needn’t have worried though. IAC has always had a long standing and loyal following of clients honed through the years in a business with remarkably little staff turnover and a tight knit team. This has proved a tried and true formula, with IAC being the number one place in New Zealand to sell a Goldie, Peter McIntyre, anything historical and now Frances Hodgkins can be added to that list.

Despite the other Auckland auction houses opting for the in-room auction experience, IAC decided to sell their sale online only, perhaps buoyed by the success of the Silich Collection last month and the obvious hesitancy of the general public to return to large gatherings with retail only opening last week.

A couple of early lots surprised, with Guy Ngan’s Searching for Tiki Hands (Lot 3 ) sold subject at $16,000 and Buck Nin’s Tuatara Landscape (Lot 4 ) passed in with no bid at $20,000. Both of these artists’ have found considerable success in recent sales, Buck Nin has been especially popular with prices often reaching double a presale estimate. Two works on paper by Michael Illingworth which had been sold from his estate at A+O four years earlier were also passed in.

After that small bump, it was business as usual for IAC. Paintings by Max Gimblett often find favour with the IAC crowd and two works especially shone in this sale. Untitled (Lot 7 ) a highly coloured work on paper with a lot of paint splatter detail in great condition sold for $15,500 setting a record for a work on paper, while I Have Seen Many Wifes in this World… (Lot 14 ) took out the top price for a painting when it realised $77,000 against a $50,000 reserve. The record had been set days earlier at Art + Object and stood at $70,000.

Peter Siddell is known for his interior and exterior views of heritage villas and they usually achieve strong results at auction. Two quite different views Western Road (Lot 22 ) a painting and Doorway (Lot 23 ) a watercolour were estimated at $25,000-$35,000 and $10,000-$15,000 respectively. In the unwritten but accepted rules of art valuing, Western Road should have sold for more than Doorway, being an oil painting, being larger and from a later more refined period of the artist’s practise. But the small watercolour Doorway punched well above its weight selling for $37,000, beating out the painting by $1,000.

There has been a noticeable softening in the Banksy market internationally since April this year and that seems to have been reflected in the market in NZ as well with Banksy’s consigned to the last round of sales across all the auction houses failing to generate the heated and intense bidding duels of 2020 and early 2021. IAC who have captured the market for Banksy in NZ, had three works in this sale including one of his most famous images Girl with Balloon (Lot 28 ). This work was from the unsigned edition of 600, (there is another signed version in an edition of 150) and carried an estimate of $250,000-$350,000. It sold midway between the estimates at $300,000 which was still a high price as recent sales in the UK for a comparable work have made about the equivalent of $180,000. The other two works Pulp Fiction (Lot 29 ) estimate $90,000-$150,000 and CND Soldiers (Lot 29 ) estimate $80,000-$120,000 made it through reserves without much fanfare to realise $94,500 and $80,000 respectively.

All the headline lots of the sale well exceeded their reserves with a protest painting about the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior by Pat Hanly, Vessel Attacked 1987 (Lot 37 ) selling for $181,000 from a start of $150,000. A well documented painting by Colin McCahon with a nice chain of provenance titled Titirangi 1954 (Lot 38 ) commenced bidding above the low estimate at $275,000 and didn’t stop until it reached above the top estimate at $332,500.

Another headline painting with great provenance was C.F Goldie’s Hori Pokai A Sturdy Stubborn Chief 1919 (Lot 39 ). The charming story of its history was related in the media reports after the sale: the painting was originally acquired by a woman as a wedding gift for her husband when he arrived home from fighting in World War I and had been retained in the family since. The estimate of $500-$700,000 was a top price given the size of 26 x 21 cm but this painting had all the characteristics that buyers want; a front facing male sitter, huia feathers in the hair, a hei-tiki, a feather cloak and fresh to market provenance. Opening at $500,000 with 7 phone lines ready and waiting, the next bid called by a phone bidder was $700,000. After that the lot moved at pace with new bidders entering at $1,075,000 and $1,250,000 before selling after 30 bids for $1,420,000 setting a new record for the artist at auction.

It seems as if a new normal is appearing in the prices for Frances Hodgkins watercolours with two watercolours in the past two sales reaching over $200,000 for the first time. Previously the prices had remained fairly stable and the top price of $150,000 set in 2003 hadn’t been surpassed until July this year. In this sale, St Ives (Lot 40 ) estimated at $200,000-$300,000 had last been for sale in 1993 when it sold for $60,000. Interestingly, if this work had of been offered last year, it probably would have carried a similar estimate. Timing is of course everything and it ended up making $230,000. Another later work Bradford-on-Tone (Lot 41 ) which dates from the late 1930s also well surpassed it’s $60,000 reserve to realise $112,500 as it seems as if these new levels may be here to stay.

Once again it was another successful night for IAC, with all three of their flagship Important & Rare sales in 2021 realising over $4 million each. This sale which realised $4,332,500 was just a little shy of their March sale total, but had higher percentages sold by lot 158% and by volume 90%. With two more smaller online sales to squeeze in before the Xmas shutdown, they will have averaged one sale a month this year and considering the massive disruptions due to all things COVID it’s an impressive effort.


All prices are in $NZ and are hammer prices unless otherwise noted.

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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.