Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's fine art collection goes on auction

A selection of fine art from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's personal collection has gone up for auction at Parnell's International Art Centre in Auckland.

The nine works were thought to be worth up to $4 million, and among them were three paintings by New Zealand artist Charles Goldie.

Art centre director Richard Thomson says it's a first.

"We sell a lot of Goldies... but we don't sell three Goldies in one night very often," he says.

"Particularly of this quality - I actually think it's the first time we've ever offered three major works in one."

Others in the prized collection include a piece by Kiwi war artist Peter McIntyre, and another by New Zealander Frances Hodgkins.

The big names certainly brought a big crowd to the auction.

"We've had contact from New Zealanders really from all over the world asking about these paintings."

Dame Kiri has owned the collection for nearly three decades, most of which has been on long-term loan to the Auckland Art Gallery.

"Some of them since 1993, from time to time they've been shown at exhibitions at the Auckland Art Gallery."

But after all that time it's understood Dame Kiri now wants them passed on to future generations.

"So she wants someone else to take possession I guess, and look after them and enjoy them."

The collection has been under tight security with the auction taking place just over a year since two Gottfried Lindauer paintings were stolen from the gallery during a ram raid.

"We have got foot patrol - 24 hours - just for this particular viewing."