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Webb’s Lockdown Auction Breaks The $1 Million Mark

New Zealanders’ insatiable appetite for exceptional art transcends constraints. With lockdown conditions in place, Webb’s have pulled out all the stops to make this auction a reality. It is one of our most successful auctions in this category, and we made it happen under lockdown conditions.” - Charles Ninow, Head of Art at Webb’s

  • Webb’s held NZs first virtual auction of artwork on Sunday 10 October.
  • Total sales exceeded $1.3 million.
  • Under lockdown conditions, Webb’s achieved remarkable results.
  • Over 1000 bidders were registered across two distinct sales.
  • A total of 215 artworks by a range of NZ and international artists were included.

Webb’s Auction House brought an excellent dual catalogue of artwork to auction on Sunday. The Works of Art and Select sales were presented under the unique conditions of a virtual auction. Works by many of the nation’s leading artists went under the hammer, and over 1000 bidders registered to get in on the action. Bidders had to vie for the artwork via phone and internet platforms, with only socially distanced staff in the auction room.

The sale opened with a flurry of bidding on the first lot, a 1987 screenprint by Pat Hanly titled Doing It. 36 bids were registered, before the hammer fell at $7,702. The pre-auction estimate was $2500 – $3500. This bidding frenzy, set the tone for the auction.

The results that came in that would have been excellent under ordinary live auction conditions. That they were achieved using a virtual format, while Aucklanders remain largely locked down, made them nothing short of remarkable. Webb’s innovated to deliver one of its most successful, record-breaking art auctions, which also enjoyed the distinction of being the first virtual art auction in New Zealand’s history.

“Webb’s is at the cutting-edge of innovation in the New Zealand auction scene. That’s no secret. But we have taken it to another level with this virtual auction. I’m extremely proud of the team, and I’m delighted for our vendors and buyers.” Charles Ninow.

Viewings of the artwork, an essential aspect of any art auction, had been managed virtually. Under level three lockdown conditions, the works were installed for a superior and safe contactless viewing for clients, with video viewings also available. The results spoke for themselves.

This brilliant outcome is testament to the determination and professionalism of Webb’s. It is also in keeping with current trends. The past 18-24 months have seen an extraordinary increase in the market for high quality New Zealand art. While our gaze is firmly fixed on our own shores, the art market has been exploding. New Zealander’s are realising the extraordinary richness of our art, our stories, our cultural legacy.

An important part of that cultural legacy is the rich history and tradition of Chinese New Zealanders. In another first, the Webb’s Art department teamed up with the Asian Art department for a combined offering. A number of works by leading contemporary Chinese artists with New Zealand connections were included in the sale. This proved to be a winning formula. Reagan Lee’s 2020 ink on paperwork, Fate2020 Pandemic (Beethoven), was the highest grossing artwork on the night. It came in at $156,445, well clear of its pre-auction estimate of $100,000 - $150,000

A number of works by international artists were included in the sales. A painting by Australian legend Sidney Robert Nolan drew much bidding attention. The untitled work depicted one of Nolan’s signature iron-clad Ned Kelly figures. It had a pre-auction estimate of $4,000 - $6,000 but after 21 bids, the hammer fell at $23,000.

Webb’s continues to champion the work of Tony Fomison, and tonight was no exception. A modestly sized Fomison work, titled Vulcan the Ugly Making Something Beautiful, reached an excellent price at $65,000, well above its pre-auction estimate of $35,000 – $45,000.

“Webb’s has developed an amazing market for Fomison’s paintings. We have set and reset records for his incredible work, and we continue to see significant upside.” 
Charles Ninow

The Art to Date and Select catalogues are designed with newer collectors in mind. They provide excellent artworks at a range of accessible prices. In yet another sign of Webb’s industry leading expertise and professionalism in art, the results from this auction well and truly surpassed expectations.



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