New Zealand’s premier auction house Webb’s on how to start investing in art

In association with Webb’s.

As Manager of Art at Webb’s — Aotearoa’s premier auction house, specialising in the sale of art, jewellery and accessories, wine and collectors’ vehicles in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland and Pōneke/Wellington — Tasha Jenkins oversees the entire art department. We picked her brain in the run-up to Twenty, the inaugural live Webb’s auction in Pōneke/Wellington, which on July 5 will showcase 20 exemplary artworks by 20 artists whose investment level is on the up and up — the most exciting prospects in the local art market today. 

MAIN IMAGE “At Webb’s, every day is different, which is why it’s so exciting,” says Tasha, who’s pictured at Webb’s HQ in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland with Kuaira 12 by Robert Ellis. All of the paintings pictured here will be included in the Twenty auction.  TOP October by Louise Henderson. ABOVE Sea Region by Gretchen Albrecht.

So Tasha, how many art auctions does Webb’s host each year? We have various tiers of art auction, ranging from high-value art sales at live auction to more accessible art sold online. We have seven mainstay live auctions a year, and have started adding in specially curated live auctions, like Twenty, to keep things interesting. We also hold about 10 online auctions per year. The live auctions are focused on the top end of the market, generally established collectors with substantial resources, whereas our online art auctions are more accessible and often suited to a younger demographic. 

Twenty is set to be held at the Webb’s Pōneke/Wellington gallery — what can you tell us about that? This auction is a specially curated sale that came about when the team noticed there was a selection of artists who’d seen a significant rise on the secondary market over a short period of time. Some have been around for a while but previously flown under the radar, such as Louise Henderson and A Lois White, whereas others are contemporary artists who’ve seen a huge market increase recently, such as Michael Parekōwhai, Andrew McLeod and Fiona Pardington. It’s great to have played a part in resetting the market for these important artists, and we wanted to celebrate with a catalogue that highlights fantastic examples of their work.

TOP “Our Wellington gallery is fantastic,” says Tasha. “We’ve held wine and jewellery auctions there and we’re excited to hold Twenty there soon. I think Wellingtonians will be thrilled to experience Webb’s live art auctions. We’ve built a reputation for creating auctions of the highest standard.” MIDDLE Seascape by Andrew McLeod. ABOVE An untitled work by Julian Dashper.

You’re still in the process of consigning works for Twenty, but what are some of your personal picks so far? October by Louise Henderson is certainly a favourite of mine — I love her practice, and at more than 2m tall, this painting is amazing to stand before. I’ve also always been a fan of Gretchen Albrecht’s 1970s works, and her painting Sea Region is a beautiful example.
It is a treat being around art all day and it definitely helps me figure out which artists I like. I’m most interested in modern and contemporary paintings, often abstract works. I’m currently very much enjoying Joanna Margaret Paul’s paintings; we have a few of her works coming up in our Select auction on June 12. 

For those keen to dip their toes into investing in art, where do you recommend starting? I think the most important thing is always to buy works you enjoy. If you have certain artists you’re looking to invest in, buying works on paper and prints can be a way of acquiring works at lower prices. Looking at auction catalogues lets you get a feel of how works are priced and what’s out there.

Are there any trends you’ve noticed recently? I wouldn’t necessarily describe this as a trend, because I hope it’s a permanent change, but I think it’s great to see more public interest in 20th-century women artists, such as Louise Henderson, A Lois White, Rita Angus, Teuane Tibbo and Adele Younghusband. Although these artists aren’t new, at the time they were overlooked in lieu of their male counterparts — and it appears the tide is finally turning. Noting this shift in the market is partly what influenced our decision to curate the Twenty auction.

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