Artwork from Dame Kiri‘s collection sells for millions

Artworks from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa‘s personal collection have sold for millions at an auction in Auckland.

The Goldie portrait of Tamati Pehiriri sold for $775,000. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

About a dozen of Dame Kiri‘s paintings, which had been on loan to the Auckland Art Gallery for more than 25 years, went under the hammer at the International Art Centre in Parnell last night.

It was standing room only at the gallery, where more than 100 people packed in to see Dame Kiri‘s highly sought after collection.

Three paintings by Charles Goldie were among the first off the block – and fetched the highest prices.

A painting of Tamati Pehiriri, a chief of the Rarawa tribe, sold for $775,000, making it the highest priced item sold at the gallery so far this year.

International Art Centre director Richard Thomson said the other two paintings – one of a chieftainess of Ngati Raukawa and the other of a chief from Te Arawa – reached $425,000 and $625,000 in bids.

He said the first painting sold under the hammer and prices for the other two were being negotiated to meet the reserve.

Mr Thomson said the successful bidders were local and the paintings would be staying in New Zealand.

Dame Kiri was only selling the paintings so they could be enjoyed by another collector, he said.

The crowd at the auction. Photo: RNZ / Nita Blake-Persen

“You know she doesn‘t need to sell these things, they‘re just simply on the market because she has so many things and someone else will get to enjoy them all.”

It wasn‘t just Dame Kiri‘s collection up for grabs – there were 69 pieces on offer in total including several works by top Australian artists.

Art collector Denis Savill flew over from Sydney for the occasion and walked away with two purchases – one for $70,000.

Auckland man Greg Moyle was there to add to his art collection but said the pieces he had his eye on were beyond his price range.

“I call art an emotional experience and if you can‘t afford it you‘ve got to get your emotional experience somewhere else,” he said.

Security patrolled the footpath outside the gallery during the auction, which took place just over a year after two Gottfried Lindauer paintings were stolen from the gallery.

Those paintings are yet to be found but Mr Thomson said he was optimistic they were still in the country and would turn up in the future.