Mystery bid to take Goldie masterpiece out of New Zealand
The Government is considering a bid by a mystery buyer to take one of the country's most celebrated historical artist's paintings offshore.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage confirmed it received an application to take a Charles F Goldie painting out of the country.
It is considering whether the work should be protected by laws allowing authorities to block culturally significant artefacts from being taken overseas.
However, the identity of the painting and which country its owner hopes to take it to remains a mystery.
* Charles F. Goldie painting sells for $265,000 at auction in Auckland
* Captain Cook and Charles F. Goldie feature in record-breaking auction sales
* Last Charles F. Goldie painting sells at auction
* Two valuable Gottfried Lindauer paintings stolen in Auckland ram raid burglary
China's affluent private collectors are increasingly buying up important artworks.
Last week, an iconic portrait of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong by American pop artist Andy Warhol sold for NZ$15.7 million at an auction in Hong Kong.
Goldie is one of New Zealand's best known and sought-after artists. His portraits of Maori tribal figures have been the targets of theft, vandalism and forgery.
They are also polarising: while some Maori view Goldies as faithful likenesses of their ancestors, others disapprove of the ethnographical nature of the works, believing Goldie presented his subjects as though he viewed tangata whenua as a dying race.
The application to ship the Goldie out of New Zealand coincides with an ongoing police hunt for two Gottfried Lindauer paintings stolen in a brazen ram-raid heist from Parnell's International Art Centre on April 1.
Lindauer, like Goldie, was a celebrated painter of Maori figures, and the pieces are together valued at nearly $1 million. Police have alerted Interpol.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage would confirm only that the Goldie work under consideration is not A Noble Relic of a Noble Race, 1941, which was Goldie's last painting before his death, and which sold for a record $1.3 million last April in an auction at the International Art Centre.
Wellington auction house Dunbar Sloane also confirmed an early Goldie work, Tamehana, 1900, that went for $322,000 this Thursday, was sold to a New Zealander.
Auckland auction house Mossgreen-Webb's has two Goldie works set to go under the hammer next week.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage confirmed it was "currently considering an export application relating to a painting by C F Goldie".
The permission process is covered by the Protected Objects Act.
"The Act requires the Chief Executive to consider the specialist advice of at least two expert examiners in the field relevant to the particular application, and to apply the Act's tests on the cultural heritage significance of the object," the spokesman said. "At this stage a final decision has not been made on this application."
Pressed again for information on the painting's identity and buyer's intended destination, the Ministry declined to provide more detail.
"Given the application is still under consideration the Ministry cannot provide the information at this time."
Ngati Manawa elder Pem Bird said if he was a descendant of a Goldie portrait's subject he would not wish it to leave the country.
"This is a classic example of two cultures clashing. I would venture to suggest that if my people knew that was going to be the outcome they would not have agreed for themselves to be painted. It is as simple as that - if [they knew] it was to be sold to the highest bidder and to be taken outside the country."
Bird hoped the Ministry would decline the work's removal from New Zealand, saying Goldie works represented a shared cultural heritage.
"It would be great for all for our taonga to be protected."
- Sunday Star Times