A leading New Zealand artist is in a High Court fight with a gallery director who allegedly failed to pay commissions.

Auckland-based artist Stephen Bambury - whose work has been exhibited in Germany, Austria, France, Australia, the United States and extensively in New Zealand - reportedly fell out with transtasman gallery director Andrew Jensen some three years ago.

Bambury has since filed a case in the High Court at Auckland and Associate Judge Jeremy Doogue described "the nub of the dispute" in a publicly-released court document last month:

"The plaintiff who is an artist alleges that the defendant who operates a gallery breached the terms of an agreement between the two parties by retaining completed works of the plaintiff when he was note [sic] entitled to, failing to pay commissions owed and breaches of other obligations."


"The defendant denies any breach, has pleaded affirmative defences and has counter-claimed for alleged unpaid commissions which he says the plaintiff owes him," Associate Judge Doogue said.

Bambury said today that he did not want to comment on the details of the case.

Jensen said he had filed "an extremely full statement of defence" when contacted at his gallery in Sydney.

"It's a breakdown in a relationship that's 25 year's old," said Jensen, who has also published writing on Bambury.

"He and I were the closest of friends for 25 years...it's a remarkably, kind of, lamentable and sad end to a long working relationship."

Christchurch-born Bambury, who is in his early 60s, is considered one of New Zealand's leading and most-respected abstract artists.

Herald art writer T J McNamara said Bambury's work has "always been rather severe, minimal abstraction".

"He is much admired. He gets in all the books on New Zealand art," McNamara said.

Jensen, who is a director of the Fox/Jensen gallery in Newmarket, opened another in Sydney in 2011.