Dick Frizzell's 'little idea' attracting big money

Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013
Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke

DRAWING STRONG INTEREST: Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke was created by Dick Frizzell in 1995 as a Canteen fundraiser. It was sold then for $4000.

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It's arguably the most recognisable and reproduced image in New Zealand art - and judging from the results of a current online auction, the most desirable.

Dick Frizzell created Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke in 1995 for a Canteen fundraising auction in Wellington. Now the original 490mm by 740mm watercolour and gouache on paper has gone under the virtual hammer with the online auction house Ocula Black.

Sold in 1995 for $4000, the work, owned by a private collector, is expected to reach between $60,000 and $120,000. Bidding had reached $48,000 as of 6pm yesterday.

The auction closes on Tuesday, May 14.

Not bad, Frizzell admits, for what started as "a little idea . . . something child-friendly to raise money for children".

"The Christchurch Art Gallery started the ball rolling when it reproduced the work as a poster. That was the tipping point. New Zealanders were slightly wary of buying poster reproductions of art but this painting seized their imagination."

The ball not only started rolling. It thundered across the country's cultural landscape.

Frizzell's image has been reproduced more than 30,000 times on T-shirts, prints, mugs and posters.

In 2007, its creator revisited Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke with a series of screen prints entitled It's About Time.

"It's certainly gripped the imagination," Frizzell says. "But I had no idea that it was going to become as popular as this. Of course, I've got nothing at stake with the auction - except perhaps my reputation."

The co-founder of Ocula Black, Chris Taylor, describes the painting as a humorous and inventive take on national identity.

"The image resonates strongly with all New Zealanders."

Register for the auction at oculablack.com

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- Fairfax Media

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