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.
- Fairfax Media