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A Rare Judge of New Zealand Art


October 17, 2019

The late Paul Barber and his wife Kerry were passionate about supporting New Zealand art and for nearly 50 years put together a rare and diverse collection of some of the country’s most revered and talented artists.

Next week (October 23) the Kerry and Paul Barber Collection of 58 paintings and sculptures will be sold at an International Art Centre auction of Important and Rare Art which features a catalogue of some of the most important artists New Zealand has produced.

International Art Centre director Richard Thomson said both Paul, a retired District Court judge who died in 2016 aged 79, and his wife Kerry, had a strong and shared passion for New Zealand artists.

“The works they chose for their collection were based on their strong connection to and admiration of the artists. Many of the works were selected as Paul travelled around New Zealand hearing cases in court. Kerry was a talented textile artist. She accompanied Paul during many of his travels and her influence is evident throughout the choice of works.”

Mr Thomson said the collection was unique.

“We have never before seen such a collection of New Zealand artistic talent under one roof. Paul and Kerry had a particular affection for Evelyn Page but the collection also includes works by Gretchen Albrecht, Nigel Brown, Brent Wong, Dick Frizzell, Lois White, Don Binney, Toss Wollaston, Peter McIntyre, Colin McCahon and sculptors Paul Dibble and Greer Twiss, to name just a few.

“It really is quite a remarkable collection and with some of the other works in the catalogue, will be quite a remarkable auction.”

A recently rediscovered Don Binney masterpiece, Pipiwharauroa over Te Henga, is a spectacular oil on canvas of a shining cuckoo over Bethells Beach in 1974, and is another of the auction highlights. It is expected to sell for up to $650,000.

The highly acclaimed painting is of the bird which Maori legend says inspired Maori to migrate to New Zealand. It was one of Binney’s finest and is hugely significant in New Zealand’s art and cultural history, Mr Thomson said.

Another hugely significant painting in the catalogue was Sea Wall and Kingfisher 1967 by Michael Smither who celebrates his eightieth birthday on Tuesday. The sea wall was built to protect part of the Taranaki coastline.

Smither also included a gliding kotare (kingfisher) in the painting. Like Binney, he was also concerned about conservation and protection of the environment. Sea Wall and Kingfisher is expected to bring up to $350,000.

A work by Charles Goldie, the world’s pre-eminent painter of Maori, is expected to bring up to $250,000. A Happy Thought, which Goldie painted in 1922, is of Te Aitu Te Irikau, a noted Arawa chieftainess from Maketu in the Bay of Plenty.

Mr Thomson said the auction catalogue was unsurpassed for its diverse range of New Zealand artistic mastery.

“In its relatively short history New Zealand is lucky to have developed an art culture which covers a wide, creative and unique range of artistic merit and style and much of that is represented in this catalogue.

“We have not seen such a broad offering before and are unlikely to see it again for a long time,” Mr Thomson said.

Note to Editors: The auction begins at 7pm on Wednesday, October 23.

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