New record set for most expensive artwork sold at auction in New Zealand

Colin McCahon's piece has been described as the jewel of the Bank of New Zealand collection.

Webb’s Auction House/Supplied

Colin McCahon’s piece has been described as the jewel of the Bank of New Zealand collection.

A new record has been set for the most expensive artwork sold at auction in New Zealand.

Colin McCahon’s 1982 painting Is There Anything of Which One Can Say, Look, This Is New? broke the record when it sold for $2.45 million on Sunday.

The work was one of McCahon’s final three paintings, and had a pre-auction estimate between $1.5m and $2.5m.

It was sold along with the first batch of works from the Bank of New Zealand Art Collection at Webb’s Auction House. Total sales exceeded $13.5 million, and the auction was a “white glove sale”, with all 50 lots selling on the day.

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A Peak In Darien, a sculpture by Kiwi artist Michael Parekowhai, was the previous record holder, selling for $2,051,900 last year.  (File photo)

Supplied

A Peak In Darien, a sculpture by Kiwi artist Michael Parekowhai, was the previous record holder, selling for $2,051,900 last year. (File photo)

It beat the previous record – Michael Parekōwhai’s A Peak in Darien, which sold for $2,051,900 last year – and reclaimed the title for McCahon. Before Parekōwhai’s piece sold, McCahon’s The Canoe Tainui held the record, fetching $1.58 million in 2016.

The auction also saw price records set for works by Robin White, Tony Fomison, Brent Wong, Evelyn Page, A Lois White and a host of others.

All proceeds from the auction will be used to set up the BNZ Foundation, a philanthropic entity designed to support the work of organizations nationwide helping communities thrive.

Tony Fomison's The Fugitive fetched the second-highest price of the day, selling for $1.86 million

Webb’s Auction House/Supplied

Tony Fomison’s The Fugitive fetched the second-highest price of the day, selling for $1.86 million

The collection was one of the greatest ever assembled in New Zealand, said Charles Ninow, Webb’s director of art.

The “incredible results achieved [were] testament to the quality of the work in this collection”, he said.

The collection had toured the country, with viewings in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, ahead of the auction.

It had been assembled in a relatively short window of time – between 1981 and 1987 – with the October ’87 stock market crash bringing an end to the bank’s collecting largesse.

Robin White's Glenda at Tahakopa, left, and Fly-Away Girl by Ian Scott, right.

KEVIN STENT/Stuff

Robin White’s Glenda at Tahakopa, left, and Fly-Away Girl by Ian Scott, right.

The second-highest price of the day was for Tony Fomison’s The Fugitive. The 1982-83 work was the subject of fierce competition, and sold for $1.86 million – the highest price ever for a work by Fomison.

Another standout result was Robin White’s Glenda at Tahakopa, painted in her distinctive late 1970s style, depicting a friend in Otago. This artwork was bought by Te Papa, along with Design, by A Lois White.

With a pre-auction estimate between $250,000 and $350,000, Glenda at Tahakopa reached $416,245, easily breaking the old record for one of White’s paintings of $230,000 from late last year.

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