How to buy art at auction with New Zealand’s premier auction house Webb’s

In association with Webb’s.

Art is not just for other people. As Head of Art at New Zealand’s top auction house Webb’s Tasha Jenkins (below) says, “People may not realise, but it is possible to acquire fantastic artworks at any price point.” We brought her in to teach us how to shoot for the stars.

MAIN IMAGE Next Time it will be Different by Yvonne Todd. ABOVE Untitled works by Juliet Peters (left) and Séraphine Pick.  All items not captioned in this story are from The Estate auctions of vintage and designer furniture, art and homeware at Webb’s.

So Tasha, give us an overview of the Webb’s annual art auction calendar… Webb’s has galleries in Auckland and Wellington and a few different tiers of live and online art auctions that cater to first-time buyers right through to seasoned collectors. Our premier sale is Works of Art, a highly curated live auction held three times a year that includes works by New Zealand’s most notable artists and is for serious collectors, or anyone taking steps to become one. Then we have Select, a live sale of ‘staff art picks’ featuring works by up-and-coming and more established practitioners. The artworks on offer differ in terms of price and medium, and are suitable for anyone. We also have different tiers of online sales throughout the year that offer more affordable and accessible works.
We supplement this mainstay calendar with themed auctions, like the upcoming Pencil Case Painters, and pop-up events in our Wellington premises. When we get special collections or other opportunities, we fit them into the calendar too.

If someone’s interested in a particular artist, how do they find out if any of their works are coming up for auction? Sign up to our emails, follow us online and get in touch if there’s something specific you’re looking for. We often reach out to clients we know are keen to acquire works by certain artists — it’s great when we can match someone with the one they’ve been looking for.

Any top tips for newbies? The best way to begin is simply to start looking. Start going to auctions and reading the catalogues to figure out what kind of works you like. Webb’s has such a range that there will always be something.
Auctions aren’t as scary as people might think, and our team is always happy to discuss what you might be looking for and answer any questions. One great thing is that our price estimates are openly published, so you don’t need to be worried about asking what the price is and feeling embarrassed if it isn’t right for you. You can also view our catalogues and bid at auction online from the comfort of your home. 

What about prints and photos versus paintings? I definitely recommend prints and photographs as an accessible way to acquire works by well-known artists. This Yvonne Todd work [main image] is an editioned poster print, rather than a photograph, which means it’s a lot more affordable. Other works on paper, like watercolours or drawings, can also be a great way to acquire a unique work by an artist for a more affordable price than a large-scale oil painting, say. Our Select and online sales cater to these types of purchases and new collectors.

THESE IMAGES All the works we’ve shared in this story are by female artists from Aotearoa. “It’s a joy for me to champion artwork by New Zealand women at auction,” says Tasha. “Saskia Leek is a fantastic artist I’ve always admired, and I love the vibrant green of this work [top], Hospital Garden, which was the first painting I ever purchased from Webb’s. [It’s pictured here beside fabulous ceramic piece Working on Talking by Kate Newby.] Ayesha Green [whose screenprint In the Extension of My Feet is pictured above, far right] is an artist whose work will be on many people’s wishlists. She’s another one to watch and I’d love to add her work to my collection. Her exhibition Folk Nationalism at City Gallery Wellington last year was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to her next one. Imogen Taylor is a local painter I greatly admire, and I feel very lucky to own this work [above, front], which is titled Baste. Her career is going from strength to strength and I love that her works always have a slight twist.”
What are some of the upcoming highlights at Webb’s we can pop in our diaries? I’m looking forward to our first major Works of Art sale of the year in March, which is always an exciting undertaking, and the ongoing events in our Wellington gallery.
I’m also very excited about Pencil Case Painters, which will take place on February 26. The title of the auction comes from a moniker given to a group of artists who studied at the University of Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts in the 1990s and whose works have doodle-like characteristics. It features two of the artists shown here, Séraphine Pick and Saskia Leek, along with others like Bill Hammond and Shane Cotton. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt for our team to find works for bespoke sales like this!

Interview Alice Lines
Styling Juliette Wanty
Photography Webb’s

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