BNZ Art Collection: McCahon Artworks Sold for $3.7 Million

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Part of the BNZ Art Collection will be auctioned on Sunday at Webb’s.
Photo: RNZ / Felix Walton

Five works by New Zealand artist Colin McCahon have been sold this afternoon for a total of $3.7 million in the BNZ Art Collection – and there are still concerns about their sale.

McCahon’s Is there anything one can say, look, this is new? sold for $2.1 million – it had an estimate of between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Other McCahon works sold are included O let us cry, Gray sky, red earth, Kauri and Small shrub-covered hill.

'Is there anything one can say, look, this is new?'  by Colin McCahon

‘Is there anything one can say, look, this is new?’ by Colin McCahon
Photo: Delivered / Webb’s

Most of the paintings in this afternoon’s auction for the BNZ Art Collection have sold above their highest estimate.

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Lois White’s Design sold for $115,000 above and Brent Wong’s city ​​limit sold for $175,000 more than the top estimate. The refugee sold by Tony Fomison for $1,525,000 – the estimate was $600,000-$700,000.

Tony Fomison's 'The Fugitive', 1982-83

Tony Fomison’s ‘The Fugitive’, 1982-83
Photo: Delivered / Webb’s

Among the BNZ collection of over 200 works of art were works by some of the country’s foremost artists, Rita Angus, Gordon Walters, Toss Woollaston, Gretchen Albrecht, Milan Mrkusich, Don Binney and Ralph Hotere.

Webb’s art auction director Charles Ninow previously said it was one of the most important auctions in New Zealand history.

However, there are objections to the auction of such important works of art to private buyers, with former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark saying BNZ should not sell millions of dollars worth of art originally purchased when the bank was state-owned.

Today Auckland Art Gallery claimed that BNZ dismissed its concerns about the sale of important New Zealand artworks.

Gallery director Kirsten Lacy said the artworks were bought when the BNS was state-owned but transferred when it was privatized.

She thought they should be visible to everyone.

“There is special care for such a corporate collection, to consider the national interest, and the bank is not interested in a dialogue about what that means for New Zealand’s cultural assets.”

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BNZ wasn’t interested in talking to her about the collection, Lacy said, but the bank said it had no formal approaches to galleries.

BNZ corporate affairs general manager Cliff Joiner said the future of the BNZ Art Collection has been carefully considered by the board over a two-year period.

The company decided the best way to continue supporting the art collection’s legacy was to pass on the privilege of caring for the works to others and to support communities with the proceeds, he said.

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