Bruce Qin (left) and Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie, new owners of Webb’s in Auckland.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Ewen Mackenzie-Bowie and Bruce Qin are advertising for new staff for the venture and plan to hold their first auction in June.

Mackenzie-Bowie, who runs language schools in New Zealand, and Qin are contemporary art collectors and had previously been customers of Webb’s, consigning and buying from the auction house.

They plan to introduce new technology to make online buying and selling easier and will digitise Webb’s 40-year archive.

‘Remarkable tradition’

In a statement sent to ATG they said: “Webb’s has a remarkable tradition dating back to 1976 and we respect and greatly value that heritage. Our core purpose is to continue to offer specialist auctions of fine art, decorative arts, jewellery, wine, single owner collections and private treaty sales.”

Mackenzie-Bowie and Qin created Webb Fine Art Limited to acquire the New Zealand assets from the liquidators of Mossgreen- Webb’s, which included all the intellectual property of Webb’s including the name and databases.

The business will trade from its Parnell location for the interim, while the owners look for a larger premises. Although it had no obligation to employ staff, Mackenzie- Bowie told ATG he wanted to “retain continuity” and has kept a “wonderful team of ten” as well as a plan to hire new staff.

The new owners said they have no connection to Paul Sumner, the former owner of Mossgreen.

Webb’s became part of Australian auction house and gallery business Mossgreen in 2015 when it was purchased as part of its expansion.

After Mossgreen went into administration in December 2017, BDO, the administrator for Mossgreen-Webb’s in New Zealand, acted quickly in advising consignors to collect their property with no fees charged.

This was in contrast to the ongoing situation for vendors of Mossgreen in Australia who were told to pay Aus$353.20 (£200) per lot, regardless of their value, or face losing their goods. The business has more than 400 creditors.