Art auction paints a pot of gold

Much loved illustrator Quentin Blake donated a piece of original artwork for the auction.

7th December 2015

The annual fine art postcard auction returned to Newcastle University on Friday 4th December 2015, generating a substantial amount of money for the department. The event was held inside the Hatton Gallery and it was organised by final year undergraduate Fine Art students to raise money for their end of year degree show.

 The silent and live auctions were accessible to both students and members of the public as they placed bids on material produced by professional artists and students at Newcastle University. The live auction, in particular, attracted a lot of interest as Sir Quentin Blake, whose illustrations feature in books written by Roald Dahl, donated an original signed drawing from the series Nos Compagnons that sold for £575. Blake received a knighthood for services to illustration in 2013 and he also donated an unsigned copy of the book that sold for £28.

According to Niamh O’Driscoll, a fourth year Fine Art student, “A lot of preparation has gone into organising the event. We encourage first, second, third, and fourth year students to produce work that might appear in the silent or live auction. Some art lecturers have even contributed work.” For instance Joe Sallis, a Woodwork Technician at Newcastle University, made a thumb piano that sold for £135. “Sallis’ work is fantastic – he can make practically anything out of wood”, O’Driscoll continued.

“The money that we earn from our auction goes towards paying for our degree show which includes hiring out the venue, the cost of providing drinks and food, a trip to London, and advertising,” said Dale Huntley, a final year Fine Art student who helped to organise the event. “We aim to make thousands of pounds per year. We’re especially excited about this year as there are some big names in the art industry such as Quentin Blake, Maggi Jones and Maggi Hambling”, he continued.

Olivia Turner, one of the key organisers of the event and fourth year student, was praised for her hard work and described by professional auctioneer John Bullock Anderson as a ‘rising star’. Many students artwork was sold at the live auction, including Turner’s, which attracted many keen art collectors who competed against one another in securing the winning bid.

The most expensive piece of artwork to have been sold was entitled ‘Night Sea Storm’ by Maggi Hambling, who has received a CBE for her services to painting as her work features in major collections such as in the National Gallery, Yale Centre for British Art, and Tate London. The piece made using ink and acrylic on paper cost £620.

The silent auction constituted of people writing their highest bid along with their contact details on a blank sheet of paper beneath each postcard created by students. There was a fixed starting price of 50p for each postcard however many sold for a considerable amount more.

Attendees were able to browse the artwork at a drinks reception prior to placing their bids in the live auction. In order to try sell the artwork for as much as possible, online bids and telephone bids were accepted. Amongst the artwork, a piece entitled ‘Aurora Borealis’ produced by Ornulf Opdahl sold for £360 as two bidders battled it out to secure the stone lithograph.

“We contacted many artists to try and persuade them to donate some of their work but I am quite taken aback by the response”, O’Driscoll said.  Many local artists submitted pieces of work, including that of former Fine Art graduate Ben Applegarth who studied at Newcastle University. His piece named ‘Big Spring Canyon Overlook’ sold for £160 after receiving much interest.  Similarly, Professor in Contemporary Sculpture at Newcastle University, Wolfgang Weileder, donated a lambda print that sold for £150. His work focuses heavily on the deconstruction of architecture and public spaces and performance and transience. Chris Jones, a Professor of Fine Art Practice at Newcastle University donated a photographic print. Jones has previously received awards from Arts Council England and the Daiwa Foundation for his work, which has been held in exhibitions in Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom.

The fourth year art students are also set to hold two further events in coming weeks, with interim art shows displaying works currently in progress by the students. The first previews Tuesday 8 December, and the second on Tuesday 15 December.

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