Artist Bill Hammond joins the exclusive ‘Blue Chip Club’ reserved for New Zealand’s greatest artists
Bill Hammond’s 2013 painting Goods and Services is up for auction at Webbs on July 4th.
The late Bill Hammond has joined an exclusive ‘blue chip club’, membership reserved for only a handful of New Zealand’s biggest artists.
Webb’s auction house, which will be selling two of Hammond’s works, now ranks the artist alongside the likes of Charles F. Goldie, Colin McCahon and Gordon Walters.
Work by Hammond, who died in 2021, consistently fetches excellent prices, which has earned him access to the exclusive club, Webb’s artistic director Charles Ninow said.
“Bill Hammond is one of the greatest New Zealand artists of all time. His work is in all the country’s major public collections and is highly sought after by private collectors,” said Ninow.
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“The market for his work has been strong for decades, although in recent years it has risen to another level.”
Last year, Hammond’s Melting Moments II set a new record for his work when it sold for $939,881.
“This price is sensational, but not an outlier. Hammond’s work fetches excellent prices across the board.”
Ninow said that the market for artists’ work often increases after their death, but in Hammond’s case the market increase was more nuanced.
“When you look at his life’s work, it becomes clear that he was a uniquely gifted artist with a unique vision. Artist Hammond’s undeniable brilliance has been firmly in the limelight and this has led to a market boost.”
Christchurch-born artist Bill Hammond, known for the environmentally and socially conscious themes in his work, has died at the age of 73. (Video first released June 2021)
Warren Feeney, an art appraiser and fine arts writer in Christchurch, said Ninow’s comments about Hammond being part of a blue chip club and comparing him to McCahon and Goldie are credible but need to be put into perspective.
“If Ninow’s ‘exclusive blue-chip club’ is about the high-end quality of the artist’s work and his ability to operate profitably in good times and bad, then that is not an inadequate description of Hammond’s painting.”
But Feeney wonders if this “blue chip club” is only for men.
He said it seemed to rule out Rita Angus, whose Hawke’s Bay Landscape, 1955, set a new record of $908,764 at auction in May.
The sale eclipsed her previous record set in March 2018, which fetched $681,500 for Storm, Hawke’s Bay, 1969.
Feeney also pointed out that there are no certainties in life, noting that an artist’s work at auction can rise and fall over decades.
In 2003, expatriate New Zealand artist Sydney Thompson (1877-1973) sold a record $64,490 for a painting of one of his most popular subjects, the fishing port of Concarneau in France. However, in 2021, a work with 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 4th. 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.