Artist Ralph Hotere works go under the hammer

By Liz Puranam

It is being called the sale of the art century, with a splash of intrigue.

In an unprecedented auction, 23 works by New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere are going under the hammer in Auckland tonight.

They were done between 1957 and 1968 and were gifted to Hotere’s friend, Annette Fergusson.

Hundreds of people have turned out at the auction in the hopes of getting their hands on the world of Hoteres – the man many regard as New Zealand’s most important living artist.

‘Annette, May 10, 1968, Raumati’ is the work that has perhaps stirred the most interest in the collection.

“It’s a painting that the artist has rooted very definitively in a time and place, so it’s inscribed ‘Raumati’, which is a seaside village north of Wellington,” says Ben Plumbly of Art and Object.

“But most interestingly, he has inscribed it in the company of someone.”

As to who, the only clue is another inscription – the initials “M” and “J”.

“It’s the work that has been the subject of a lot of speculation in the media and the public also,” says Plumbly.

Ms Fergusson owns the work, but if she’ knows who “M” and “J” are, she’s not saying.

The 60 works were set to go on auction in September 2009, but the Hotere Trust served a last-minute legal injunction contesting ownership.

“I think it set a very bad precedent, a worrying precedent,” says arts commentator Hamish Keith.

“Artists, when they’re young, give works away. That’s what artists do. I think it would have been a tragedy for both Ralph and the owner of the works if that had come to trial.”

An out of court settlement was reached last month and tonight, 23 go under the hammer.

Many of the works offer a surprise even for those who think they know Hotere’s art.

Colour is a feature of this collection – a breakaway for an artist primarily known for working in black.

Also on auction is the first of Hotere’s collaborations with close friend and poet Hone Tuwhare.

The works are valued between $2500 and $65,000 each.

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source: newshub archive