Te Papa buys big at $4.5m art auction

21:57, Sep 20 2012
Milly Paris
GOING, GOING, GONE: Milly Paris at her home in Strathmore Park, Wellington.

One of New Zealand's biggest art collections has sold for $4.52 million and Te Papa was one of the big spenders.

The auction of Wellington's Les and Milly Paris' art collection began on Wednesday at Art + Object gallery and finished last night with around 90 per cent of the 225 works sold.

The remaining art, many which only narrowly missed their reserve prices, will continue to be sold and gallery director Hamish Coney is confident a good number will be snapped up.

"This has been the most successful art auction in New Zealand," Coney said.  

"You always have hopes and dreams but it certainly exceeded pre-sale estimates."

Around $3.5m worth of art was sold on the first auction night and last night it was standing room only again as another $1.02m of art successfully went under the hammer.


National museum Te Papa spent nearly $1m on four big ticket lots: Gordon Walters' Painting no 7 (1965); Michael Illingworth's As Adam and Eve (1965); Brent Wong's Mean Time Exposure (1971); and Peter Robinson's Boy Am I Scared Eh (1997).

Te Papa chief executive Michael Houlihan was thrilled with the purchases.

"Les and Milly were always very generous in loaning their works for public exhibitions, and we are pleased to be able to acquire some of their favourites," he said.

"They are important acquisitions that will strengthen our collections and will feature in the new redevelopment of our level 5 art galleries, opening next year."

The artwork's new home went down well with their former owner too.

"I am very pleased that some of the paintings have now gone into a public collection and will be seen by residents of and visitors to Wellington, my home town," Milly Paris said.

"I congratulate Te Papa on their choices, and I know that my dear late husband, Les, would be very honoured to know of their final resting place."

Paris put her prized collection up for auction as she was moving to Sydney to be closer to her son and grandchildren.

The couple began collecting works by Don Binney, Colin McCahon and Don Driver before expanding their collection into photography throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Even after Les Paris died, two days after Christmas in 2000, his wife continued to pick up the odd piece to complement the collection.


Gordon Walters' Painting no 7: $433,000

Michael Illingworth's As Adam and Eve: $234,500

Brent Wong's Mean Time Exposure: $105,500

Peter Robinson's Boy Am I Scared Eh: $140,000

Auckland Now