Peter Webb Galleries, Auckland,
Tuesday 21 April 2009
Over 60 people attended PhotoForum’s Fund-raising Auction, held at Peter Webb Galleries, Auckland, on Tuesday 21 April 2009. Nearly 100 of the 130 lots sold, grossing around $16,500. The works were donated by photographers from all over the country in support of PhotoForum’s ongoing publishing, exhibition, and other activities in support of New Zealand photographers. The illustrated catalogue of the exhibition can be seen on their website at http://www.photoforum-nz.org.
One feature of this auction was that relatively few works had a reserve on them, and no estimates were published. This presented an opportunity to purchase outstanding work at modest prices. Bidding for the work of some high-profile practitioners, fell well short of their market-price reserves. Among the best buys by an audience made up of quite a number of first-time auction-goers, were works by Mark Adams, Bruce Connew, Karen Crisp, Gil Hanly, Ian Macdonald, Allan McDonald, Craig Potton, Haruhiko Sameshima and Marie Shannon.
There was strong bidding for some vintage historical works, and also for enlargements made from the original negatives of Burton Bros, in the late1960s, which sold at higher than expected prices. A large “modern” print of Burton’s White Terrace, Rotomahana, fetched $500, a vintage Burton topped $450. Some vintage prints by unknown or little-known practitioners went for as low as $25.
An enlargement of the well-known Tyree group photograph, ‘Love Family Wedding, Waikawa Pa, Picton, c. 1895′, fetched $310. (At the first PhotoForum Auction, held at Peter Webb Galleries in Auckland on 28 April 1978, a modern contact print of this image, which had been reproduced as a poster by PhotoForum in the mid-seventies, was the top-selling work, fetching $60.
John B. Turner, Director of PhotoForum Inc, thanked Peter Webb, “a true visionary”, for his enthusiastic support of photography over the past 30 years. ”
“It is hard to believe now”, Turner said, “that the highest price then  paid for a contemporary photograph (one by Anne Noble) was $30. Or that the best we could raise for a Peter Peryer print was $18; an Ans Westra for $14, or a Robin Morrison for $11.50.”
“We hope that we can improve on those records tonight,” he added, “Your support will help propel PhotoForum into its next 30 years of promoting New Zealand photography as a means of communication and expression.”
Turner thanked PhotoForum’s hard working auction sub-committee of Jan Young, Julie Downie, Haruhiko Sameshima, Stuart Sontier, Abby Storey, Jennifer Tomlin, Mario Greller, and Roberta Thornley for organising the auction. He also thanked Edith Amituanai, Leigh Bell, Sally Fausett, Robyn Hoonhout, Lynn Houghton, Vicki Empson, Bruce Ross and Paul Young for their help with the finishing touches for this event.
He celebrated the fact that Peter and Ann Webb had been promoting New Zealand photography through their auctions throughout PhotoForum’s 31 years of activity. And he thanked Webb’s staff, Neil Campbell, Jonathan Organ (once an active PF committee member), Jessica Pearless, Emma Fox, and Isha Habea, for their professional help with hosting the auction.
Generally, although works did not go for high prices (perhaps a reflection on the current economic recession, as much as a high percentage of first-time buyers), PhotoForum and Webb’s were delighted that so many works did sell.