Lava Bar works may be hot stuff

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Volcano Flag was given to the Lava Bar by artist Bill Hammond in 1994. The piece could sell at auction tonight in Wellington for $300,000.
SPECIAL LOT: Volcano Flag was given to the Lava Bar by artist Bill Hammond in 1994. The piece could sell at auction tonight in Wellington for $300,000.

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Bill Hammond artworks gifted to the Lava Bar in Lyttelton nearly two decades ago could sell for a total of about $380,000 when they go under the hammer tonight.

The artworks, recovered from the earthquake-damaged Lava Bar before it was demolished last year, form the centrepiece of a Wellington auction, along with three pieces by South Island artist Grahame Sydney being sold by Coast to Coast founder Robin Judkins.

Dunbar Sloane auctioneers estimate the three Sydney artworks, including the well-known Night House II, could sell for as much as $340,000 in total.

Lava Bar owner Peter Evans said he had Hammond's blessing for the sale.

"He said not to feel strange. He said, ‘It is what I do; I make these things to sell'. I did front to him and he said to go for it," Evans said.

He said he might use the money to redevelop the Lava Bar site, which is occupied by the temporary Port Hole Bar.

"This is a brand-new phase of life really. I am consolidating all my cash because if and when we rebuild we will need it all," he said.

Hammond created the artworks for the Lava Bar when it opened in 1994.

"Bill covered the walls in the bar for us, which was fantastic. He's a dear old friend and a good buddy and he did it for us," Evans said.

"It was 1994 remember, so Bill wasn't at the level he is today. He was an emerging artist at the time and he loved our bar."

Dunbar Sloane fine arts director Helena Walker said it was rare for significant Sydney and Hammond works to come up for auction.

"They are both hugely culturally significant," she said.

"Grahame Sydney doesn't come up at auction very often at all and his output is not large. He has a waiting list of five years.

"He personally regards Night House II as one of his most significant works."

Judkins described Night House II as a "bullet-proof" investment. "It is the last major Grahame Sydney in private hands. All the rest are owned by institutions now. It will be interesting to see what happens. I'm testing the market," he said.

"New Zealand only has so many masters. Night House II is a bullet-proof art investment. It's the real McCoy."

Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper said the gallery did not have the funds to bid for the works.

"If we had a bigger chequebook we would be interested," she said.

"The Volcano Flag is a work we would love. If someone was to buy it for us I would be thrilled. It is a super work and has strong links to here."

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- The Press

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