Wed | May 22, 2019

David Boxer auction sparks a bit of art interest

Published:Wednesday | April 24, 2019 | 12:16 AMSteven Jackson/Senior Business Reporter

The David Boxer auction held earlier this month provided a snapshot of the state-of-art investment in Jamaica, with just half the nearly $20 million worth of pieces on sale finding buyers.

The auction saw the unlocking of 101 works by a series of Jamaican masters and intuitives that were held by Dr Boxer, the late artist and former curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica. His personal collection spanned thousands of works, but the auction focused on a small section of his catalogue.

“It was last public offering in terms of the Boxer collection, so people were willing to part with some of their money,” said David Nunes, one of the trustees of the David Boxer estate.

The interest in the art scene shot up due to this occasion, Nunes said.

Technical pieces by Boxer sold for $1 million and a Colin Garland for more than $660,000, but those pieces sold within the market estimate, as outlined in the programme. Ras Dizzy, a famed intuitive artist, fetched above market value with two or three bidders duking it out. In the end, a Canadian claimed top bid on nearly all of the Dizzys on the night.

“The Dizzys did well. We started bidding at $40,000 but some went for $80,000,” said Nunes. “But outside of Dizzy’s, I think the majority of art fell within the estimated price range.”

The auction was a relative success when viewed within context of an overall lull in the art market, said Nunes, himself an artist.

Of note was the underperformance of the Christ by Karl Abrahams, a small piece the size of a Bible which sold for roughly $130,000 despite the estimated value of $400,000. A Christopher Gonzalez watercolour piece sold for $155,000, which was below its $180,000 value. A large Omari Ra painted in the philosophical colours of Rastafari and snagged at its opening bid at $120,000, the low end of its value, while a small clay sculpture by Edna Manley sold for $85,000, arguably at its value.

Heads of listed investment firms, hoteliers and prominent lawyers joined art collectors at the auction, but Nunes said the event only had an average turnout.

On the night, the Financial Gleaner counted some 40 of the 101 lots sold, but Nunes said after the auction other lots were sold, pushing the total over 50.

Architect Evan Williams, the man behind the new R Hotel in New Kingston, said he acquired pieces at the Boxer auction for the planned art gallery and art museum at the R, which opened for business last year at Renfew Road. He said the museum would form an attraction for visitors, while the gallery would allow for art purchases.

Galleries are key to the art scene, giving artists a place to sell their works and art collectors a place to resell. Today, there are a handful of galleries in the island.

“You mean frame shops,” said Miguel Gonzalez, an artist and businessman. “There are no real stand-alone galleries any more, or very few,” he asserted.

Gonzalez hopes that the resurgence of new money – with the boom in listings on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, inflows of cash from Airbnb listings, and new housing developments – will pump new life into art.

“Today, you can buy a master’s work like Christopher Gonzalez at half price when compared to a decade ago during the height of the Ponzi schemes,” said Gonzalez, who is also the nephew of the famed artist.

Unregulated investment schemes that offered annual returns of more than 120 per cent were at their zenith a decade ago. Prior to that, the art market witnessed another peak in the early 1990s when the financial sector was booming.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com