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 490 by 740-millimetre watercolour and gouache on paper has gone under the virtual hammer with 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 by 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,'' he said.

''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 said. "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," he said.

Register for the auction at oculablack.com.

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- Fairfax Media

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