John Parker

The New Zealand secondary market

John Parker. Bottle. Early 1980s

Although we mainly collect Australian pottery, we do have a small number of New Zealand pieces in our collection.  This bottle by John Parker was first purchased by a Sydney Collector at an Auckland Gallery in the early 1980s. We acquired it when it was sold by consignment on eBay in 2006. Australian works that have found their way to New Zealand also turn up on Trade Me, the largest Internet auction site operating in New Zealand.

Moyra Elliott, who has written widely about New Zealand ceramics, delivered a paper on the secondary market in New Zealand at last year’s Ceramics Triennale [“GOING….. GOING….. GONE. The rise and rise of the secondary market for contemporary studio ceramics in New Zealand”, Celsius, Issue 1, July 2009, pp. 108-114.]. There is much in this paper that resonates with the Australian scene.

Elliott says that, until about ten years ago, one had to source post-1950s studio work in junk shops, skips and boxes of bric-a-brac at estate auctions. Then in the late 1990s, specialty auction houses began to include New-Zealand ceramics in their decorative arts catalogues, finding a market amongst collectors interested in older industrial and studio ceramics, and a younger generation interested in twentieth century design.

Elliott estimates that, conservatively 5 million pots were produced in New Zealand in the period up to the mid-1980s. She hopes many of these have ended up as “decent fill under concrete paths”, but she is seeing more mediocre pots from the period turning up on the secondary market. Wishful thinking is also leading to misattributions by people with little or no awareness of a potter’s  style.

Elliott observes that the high end of the New Zealand market is starting to narrow now to the top players, with names being dominant over quality and different patterns of interest emerging in different cities. To avoid flooding the market, auction houses will probably limit the number of pieces offered at auction, where, increasingly ceramics will need to compete with studio jewellery and glass.