By John Perry in Auckland, on 05-Apr-2017

Two early and rare Maori portraits stolen in a daring 'ram raid' early on Saturday morning on April 1st. was no April Fool's Day prank in the main street of the Auckland suburb of Parnell, casting a rather unfortunate shadow over the first of a series of auctions to be held in New Zealand over the next couple of weeks.

The International Art Centre's 107 lot Important and Rare sale on 4 April was reduced to 105 lots after the large pair of Maori portraits by Gottfried Lindauer from 1884 were stolen from the front window of their new premises..

The husband and wife pair of paintings feature the Chief of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe of the Bay of Plenty area and his wife Ngatai Raure.

A pall was cast over the first of the major New Zealand art sales this year on 4 April, with the theft of the two cornerstone works prior to the auction. In a 'ram raid' early in the morning of 1 April, a pair of paintings by Gottfried Lindauer featuring the Chief of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe of the Bay of Plenty area (above) and his wife Ngatai Raureon were stolen from the International Art Centre in Auckland. The two works made up just under 40% of the total of the pre-sale estimates.

Originally rediscovered in Europe, the two paintings were repatriated, restored and reframed and were to be offered for sale with pre-sale estimates of $350,000 to $450,000 each, their absence taking much of the lustre off their first major sale of 2017. At the mid-point of the estimates, the two paintings represented just under 40% of the total estimate of the sale of $1.7 to $2.4 million.

The aftermath of Cyclone Debbie that wrought death and destruction recently on Australia's eastern seaboard hit Auckland on the day of the sale, and heavy rain delayed the start of the sale.

When the sale did get underway there were few auction highlights until Banner, Land Protest (Lot 30 ) a key work from 1992 by Chinese / Maori artist Buck Nin was offered for sale. Bidding starting at the low estimate of $10,000 and it quickly rose to sell for $30,000, double the upper estimate of $15,000.

The large painting had been held in a family collection of a leading Maori artist since it was painted

A fine classic Peter McIntyre oil painting, entitled Blueskin Bay, Otago (Lot 40 ) just north of Dunedin sold well at $26,000.

A fine gouache on paper, Methodist Chapel (Lot 43 ) by Frances Hodgkins with an estimate of $120,000 - $160,000 failed to attract a bid at $90,000, in common with most of the big ticket items did not attract bids or generate much excitement on the night.

A small unsigned work by A. Lois White Untitled - Dancing Woman (Lot 49 ) attracted some serious interest selling for $14,000, just above the top end estimate

The highest price on the night went to a fine oil by Raymond Ching for his large oil on board entitled Flotilla (Lot 56 ) depicting various species of waterbirds moving forward in formation, which sold well for $100,000

One of the sales few bright spots was a small unsigned and undated Portrait of a Young Maori Woman (Lot 64 ) attributed to Gottfried Lindauer, which attracted strong bidding from the floor selling for $60,000 against a top end estimate of $40,000.

The interest in the works of Gottfried Lindauer has grown rapidly recently with a major exhibition at Auckland's Art Gallery of his paintings and the photographs that form the basis of most of his major works

Two paintings reflecting local views also reflected the rather uneven nature of the sale. A fine painting of one of Auckland's fashionable streetscapes, Vulcan Lane (Lot 65 ) by Peter McIntyre who is noted for his paintings of Wellington's built environment selling well for $21,000.

And a very rare ''Heidelberg style'' painting of Auckland's Waitemata harbour, View of the Waitemata (Lot 77 ) by an artist with no track record to speak of, Harold William Young, sold for a mere $3,500 which was below the low end of the estimate of $4,000 and was definitely the bargain of the night

Now we all know that the auction isn't over until the last lot is sold, and a rather small and insignificant drawing, Racehorses, (Lot 107 ) in a curiously 'Rembrantesque' manner by Garth Tapper caught all of the tail enders by surprise, With an upper estimate of only $600, it sold to a bidder in the room for $3,100, illustrating that old truism about the ''sting in the tail'' and or that the one about the rather large opera singer....I just forget how that one goes.....


Sale Referenced: Important & Rare Art , International Art Centre, Auckland, 04/04/2017

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.