Artist Bill Hammond joins an exclusive ‘blue flea club’ reserved for top New Zealand artists
Bill Hammond’s 2013 painting, Goods and Services, will be auctioned at Webbs on July 4.
The late Bill Hammond has joined an exclusive ‘top notch club’ where membership is restricted to a handful of New Zealand’s top artists.
Webb’s auction house, which is set to auction off two of Hammond’s pieces, now lists the artist alongside Charles F. Goldie, Colin McCahon and Gordon Walters.
Work by Hammond, who died in 2021, consistently fetches excellent prices, earning him entry into the exclusive club, said Webb art director Charles Ninow.
“Bill Hammond is one of the greatest New Zealand artists of all time. His work is held in all major public collections across the country and is widely coveted by private collectors,” Ninow said.
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“The market for his work has been strong for decades, although in recent years it has moved to another level.”
Last year, Hammond’s Melting Moments II set a new record for its work when it sold for $939,881.
“While this price is sensational, it is not an outlier. Hammond’s works fetch excellent prices across the board.”
Ninow said the job market for artists often surges after they die, but in Hammond’s case, the surge in the market was more nuanced.
“It is clear, looking at his lifetime output, that he was a uniquely gifted artist with a singular vision. The undeniable brilliance of Hammond the Artist was firmly in the spotlight, leading to the market boom.
Christchurch-born artist Bill Hammond, known for environmental and social themes in his work, has died aged 73. (video first published in June 2021)
Warren Feeney, art appraiser and visual arts writer from Christchurch, said Ninow’s comments about Hammond being part of a top club and comparing him to McCahon and Goldie were believable, but had to be qualified .
“If Ninow’s ‘exclusive premier club’ is about the high-end quality of the artist’s work and its ability to operate profitably through good times and bad, it’s not an inappropriate description of the Hammond’s painting.”
But Feeney wonders if there’s only room for men at this ‘top-notch club’.
He said that seemed to rule out Rita Angus, whose Hawke’s Bay Landscape, 1955, fetched a new auction record of $908,764 in May.
The sale eclipsed its previous March 2018 record of $681,500 for Storm, Hawke’s Bay, 1969.
Feeney also pointed out that there are no certainties in life and noted that an artist’s work at auction can go up and down over decades.
In 2003, expatriate New Zealand artist Sydney Thompson (1877 – 1973) achieved a record sale of $64,490 for a painting of one of his most popular subjects, the fishing port of Concarneau in France . However, in 2021 a work of the same subject and similar dimensions sold for $8,184.
“Times and tastes change and Thompson is by no means alone.”
Two Hammond paintings will be auctioned by Webbs on July 4. One is a 2013 painting titled Goods and Services, and the second is Wishbone Cave, an example of Hammond’s series of cave paintings created in 2010.