A woman adamant she was selling an original piece of artwork - which was actually only a copy - has taken the auctioneer to the Disputes Tribunal after her painting sold for just a fraction of what she believed it was worth.
She complained Nelson’s Lipscombe Auction House had interfered with the auction process by warning a potential bidder that the oil painting, by artist E.C. Williams, was not an original.
But the Disputes Tribunal decision, published to the tribunal’s website yesterday, dismissed the woman’s claim, ruling the auction house’s auctioneer, Warwick Savage, had performed his duties as expected of a “competent auctioneer”.
Savage told NZME he was happy with the tribunal’s decision.
“We did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said. “I found it [the Disputes Tribunal claim] to be an absolute waste of time.”
The decision outlines how the woman, who was not identified in the tribunal’s ruling, took her painting to the auction house in July of this year and it was soon added to its online catalogue.
A potential buyer came to view the painting and informed the auction house it was not an original, despite the listing stating it was “original in frame”, the decision said.
Savage spoke with the seller and advised her the painting was, in fact, an authorised copy. According to the decision, the woman then made the call to keep the painting listed with a reserve price of $100.
The woman told the tribunal that as she watched the auction, she saw Savage shake his head at someone in the room. He then paused the auction to speak to them before returning to his platform and banging his gavel - closing the bidding at $250. The seller wanted $2000 for the art piece.
She claimed Savage had told the potential bidder the painting was a “fake” and dissuaded them from bidding.
Shortly after the auction closed she phoned him and said she wanted her painting back, but it had already been sold.
Unhappy with the result, the seller turned to the Disputes Tribunal in the hope she could claim the remaining $1750 of what she thought the painting should have sold for.
Savage believed the woman got a number of facts wrong in her argument and had also produced “very little” evidence to the tribunal.
“If she thought it was so valuable why did she put a $100 reserve on it?” he pointed out to NZME.
In response to the woman’s accusation he’d dissuaded a potential bidder by shaking his head during the auction, Savage explained the bidder had asked him if the painting was authenticated - which it was not.
Tribunal referee Jeanette Tunnicliffe said that because the woman had sold other works through the same auction house, she would have been aware of the risks of setting such a low reserve price.
Tunnicliffe found Savage’s evidence on the exchange between himself and the potential bidder during the auction held more weight.
“Given that there were no other bidders at the live auction showing any interest, there is no evidence that any other competent auctioneer would have done anything differently from Mr Savage in ending the auction with the online bid,” she said.
“It seems to me unlikely that an auctioneer who derives his income as a percentage of the sale price would discourage a bid if one was available.”
The woman also accused Savage of having sold the painting to a friend of his but in his evidence, he explained that at every auction a new, random bidder identification number was generated so the auction house didn’t know who was bidding.