By John Perry in Auckland, on 09-Sep-2016

The media coverage was extensive as a very private, life-long art collection assembled by the husband and wife team of Tim and Sherrah Francis was made public for the first time over the last month or so.

Art + Object pulled out all the stops for this one and the extensive preparation by the auction house certainly bore fruit. The 3,000 catalogues had all sold out and a number of folk attending the auction had photocopies of the publication on which to record the action

The first night of 122 lot auction of the collection of husband and wife team of Tim and Sherrah Francis at Art + Object in Auckland broke many records. A work by the hard core uncompromising contemporary artist, Colin McCahon, the large, impressive and moving, 8 panel 'whakapapa' titled 'The Canoe Tainui', exceeded the million dollar price barrier selling for $1.35 million. The collection produced the highest ever sale total for a New Zealand art auction with an 'on the night' sale total of $5,535,000.

The results for the first evening of the eagerly anticipated two-part auction saw a large crowd of between 200 to 300 crowd into the Abbey Street rooms to see 122 lots of 20th and 21st century New Zealand art go under the hammer. Expectations were high and nobody was disappointed with the results obtained on the night as some major milestones were achieved and records were broken.

Despite our relatively small size as a nation, Art + Object transported a sizable chunk of the art works for a three day showing in Wellington, the Francis's home town, and the diplomatic headquarters and seat of government.

It was estimated that over 1500 people took advantage of the viewing, while in Auckland it was a ''crowded house'' every day the collection was on display for previewing the sale

The auction got off to a good start with all the key works selling well, as illustrated by a small construction by Don Peebles (Lot 33 ) which sold for $21,000 against a presale estimate of $8,000 - $12,000, as did a suite of small early works by Douglas MacDiarmid (Lot 36 ), a curious nocturnal interior from 1946 selling for $22,500 against estimates of $8,000 - $12,000.

Michael Illingworth's painting Indecisive Banishment (Lot 48 ) featuring a range of Illingworth's classic symbols sold for a record breaking $240,000 as indeed did the large format Shane Cotton work, He Pukapuka Tuatahi (Lot 54 ) specially commissioned by the Francis's in 2000 which sold for $252,000.

 A large and impressive early ''koru'' painting from 1968 by Gordon Walters, Mahuika, (Lot 57 ) sold for $325,000 to a round of applause. While Tony Fomison and Rita Angus also sold well, it was Colin McCahon's large, impressive and moving, 8 panel ''whakapapa'' "estimate on request" painting, The Canoe Tainui, (lot 73) that everybody, including a barrage of T.V. crews were waiting for. Bidding was launched with a vendor's bid of $800,000 but soon sailed away to smash all art at auction records by selling to prominent Auckland dealer John Gow for $1.35 million, who also purchased key works by Michael Illingworth, Shane Cotton and Rita Angus on behalf of clients.. This highly charged and personal ''text'' painting was originally purchased from the Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey in the late 1960's for around $500 yielding the committed collectors estate a handsome return nearly five decades later.

Bill Hammond's Living Large 4 (Lot 77 ) and Milan Mrkusich's Seven Elements in Conversation (Lot 89 ) were the next high flyers in the record breaking sale but it was lot 99 that set out a new methodology for auctions on this side of the Tasman

Lot 99 was not just a single artist lot. Oh no, buy this one and you buy a whole collection: 66 individual artworks in one hit, lovingly assembled over four to five decades, the Sherrah Francis Collection of Naive Art featured some of the finest examples of  New Zealand's unsung amateur painting ever seen on the auction floor. Sourced primarily from the auction rooms of Dunbar Sloane and second hand shops in the Wellington area this wonder filled collection sold for a whopping $140,000 to a buyer in the room who will soon be launching a new concept in museology in N.Z. with her Museum of the Everyday..... watch this space!

Five works by Charles Tole sold well with Industrial Pattern (Lot 100 ) selling for $37,000 and for first time on the secondary market, two works by William Dunning, (championed by the late Peter McLeavey) sold well above their pre-sale estimates of $12,000 - $18,000 with Hobson and Busby (Lot 108 ) selling for $35,000.

The 122 lot auction broke a many records on the night, perhaps the two most important being a that a work by a hard core uncompromising contemporary artist has now exceeded the million dollar price barrier and the Tim and Sherrah Francis Collection produced the highest ever sale total for a New Zealand art auction with an 'on the night' sale total of $5,535,000. And there is still more to come tonight.

All prices shown are in $NZ.

Sale Referenced: The Tim & Sherrah Francis Collection, Day 1, Art+Object, Auckland, 07/09/2016

About The Author

John Perry is known locally as a collector / consultant / curator/ educator and artist and is a former director of the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. For the last 20 years has worked as an antique dealer specializing in ''man made and natural curiosities'' from an old art deco cinema on the outskirts of Auckland. Over the last 16 years he has developed a multi million dollar collection of 19th and 20th century artworks for the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust. He recently donated 120 artworks from his collection in various media to the East Southland Art Gallery in Gore. A committed ''art o holic'' he continues to develop collections of New Zealand and International fine art / folk art / ceramics and photography for future usage in a private/public ARTMUSEEUM of NEWSEELAND, not to be confused with Te Papa Museum of New Zealand.