Young Auckland artist sells drawing for $26,000 in Pet Refuge charity auction

Olivia Bezett
Olivia Bezett sold her artwork for a whopping $26,000 at a charity auction. Photo credit: Instagram / Olivia Bezett

A young Auckland artist is in shock after one of her pieces sold for $26,000.

Olivia Bezett, 22, has been making art full-time for five years. She specialises in "realistic surrealism" pencil drawings of animals which often have a fantastical twist - rabbits with butterfly-wing ears, cows in flower crowns.

A few months ago she was approached by KidsCan founder Julie Chapman who commissioned a piece for Pet Refuge, a new service for women escaping domestic violence who don't want to leave their pets behind.

The piece - depicting the kinds of animals Pet Refuge looks after such as cats, dogs, birds and horses - took five months of on-and-off work, about 50 hours' worth in total.

Once completed, the original work was put up for sale at a charity auction alongside some limited edition prints.

On the way to the central Auckland event on Monday evening, Bezett's partner had to talk her out of her fear it wouldn't sell.

"I was contemplating just going and saying hi to everyone and then leaving before the auction," she told Newshub.

Her fears proved to be unfounded. The bidding started at $5000 and went steadily up from there as the artist watched in amazement.

"When it went past $10,000 my mouth dropped open."

Eventually the piece was sold for a whopping $26,000, all of which will go towards building the country's first Pet Refuge shelter. The money made from the limited edition prints will also go to the shelter.

"I cried a lot in front of everyone, it was really overwhelming," Bezett says.

She eventually calmed down enough to speak to the people who'd bought her piece -  the family-run SVS Veterinary Supplies.

"I still can't believe it, I got no sleep last night."

It's certainly more than her art usually sells for - although Bezett has established quite the name for herself. She's in constant work doing commissions, which she now limits to five at a time because they're so popular.

"I used to just say yes to everything until I ended up with a three-and-a-half-year waiting list."

Social media plays a massive role in promoting her work, and has done ever since she set up a Facebook page to share her work when she was 17.

One of the first drawings she uploaded - what would become her signature butterfly bunnies - attracted a lot of attention, and she realised she could turn her hobby into a career.

"I don't know how I would have done it without Facebook, it started everything," she says.

"I don't know how my parents did it."

Art is very much in Bezett's DNA: both sides of her family are involved in visual arts, and her mother is a painter known for her fairytale illustrations.

Although she initially wanted to go into a different field, Bezett realised where her passion was. The day before she was to start her final year of high school, she informed her parents she wasn't going back.

In an uncharacteristically bold move she decided to become a full-time artist, and says it's moments like Monday's auction that prove she made the right decision.



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