Sale of Adrian Burr and Peter Tatham’s art collection set to be New Zealand’s most lucrative auction

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A sprawling collection owned by two prominent figures of the Kiwi art scene will soon go under the hammer, in what is expected to be the most lucrative auction ever in New Zealand.

It includes furniture, artefacts and notable pieces by Colin McCahon, Max Gimblett, Ngaio Marsh and Seraphine Pick.

Peter Tatham passed away in March 2017, followed by his partner Adrian Burr in December 2020, and their estate is now being settled.

Leigh Melville, artistic director of Auckland auction house Art + Object, said their art collection had an expected sale total of $ 9 million to $ 10 million.

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The collection includes large-scale pieces, such as the famous Saint Matthew: lightning works of art by Colin McCahon, and the famous film by Michael Parekōwhai A peak in Darien, which represents a bronze bull on a piano, and presented in the 2011 exhibition of Parekōwhai in Venice.

Sculpture by Kiwi artist Michael Parekowhai, A Peak in Darien.

Provided

Sculpture by Kiwi artist Michael Parekowhai, A Peak in Darien.

Melville co-director Ben Plumbly said that while Saint Matthew: lightning sold, it could become the most expensive piece of art sold at auction in this country.

Melville added that Saint Matthew: lightning and A peak in Darien were each worth “well over a million dollars” each.

Colin McCahon, St Matthew Lightning.

Provided

Colin McCahon, St Matthew Lightning.

Plumbly said new record prices could also be set for artists such as Shane Cotton, Bill Hammond, Paul Dibble and Frances Hodgkins.

The most expensive contemporary artwork to ever sold in New Zealand is that of British artist Banksy, which sold for $ 1.7 million in Auckland in March.

A painting by Colin McCahon that sold for $ 1.35 million is the most expensive piece ever sold by a New Zealand artist.

From Parekōwhai’s famous tanned creature in the garden to using works like Dick Frizzell and McCahon to adorn the walls, Burr and Tatham, both of whom have passed away in recent years, have ensured that the darlings of the market art are commonplace in their homes.

Melville describes their primary place of residence, a “beautiful house” in Herne Bay, and Adrian’s office near the Auckland Viaduct, as almost full-fledged galleries, teeming with works of art and art. impressive artifacts that would put most museums to shame.

And yet, while both were known to surround themselves with art forms of opulence, they were also staunch supporters of less established artists and works.

Burr and Tatham’s love of art didn’t start and ended with ownership.

Artist Phil Price, known for his impressive kinetic works, hasn’t always been a regular name on the art scene. Burr and Tatham changed that, Price says.

Adrian Burr and Peter Tatham were known for their philanthropy as much as for their impressive art collection.

Provided

Adrian Burr and Peter Tatham were known for their philanthropy as much as for their impressive collection of art.

“Adrian and Peter guided me on my way at the beginning,” he says, describing how they co-financed the purchase of one of his first large sculptures and then gifted it to Auckland where it is now in the viaduct.

“It did a lot for me, and not just financially – it was also a huge confidence booster.”

Price said there would be “no one in New Zealand history” who supported the artists in the same way that Adrian and Peter did.

Adrian Burr, a real estate developer, and his partner Tatham, an interior designer, had become as well known for their philanthropy over the years as they were for their art collection.

Phil Price attributes much of the success of his wind-activated kinetic sculptures to Burr and Tatham.

Provided

Phil Price attributes much of the success of his wind-activated kinetic sculptures to Burr and Tatham.

They had been the founding benefactors of the ASB Waterfront Theater in Auckland and supported the creation of places like the Auckland Theater Company and the reconstruction of the Auckland Art Gallery.

In 2019, the duo’s support for the Arts Foundation of New Zealand was recognized with a Laureate Award in their name: The Burr-Tatham Trust Award.

Jo Blair, head of the Foundation for the Arts, said it had seemed “so fitting” that Adrian became the foundation’s donor in 2019. “He was named the Burr-Tatham Fellow to honor Peter’s passing, and that signifies the legacy of these remarkable philanthropists, ”she said.

Blair describes Adrian as “one of those true art lovers”, explaining how his interest and curiosity means that he has supported a wide range of artists – from emerging to more established artists, in all genres.

“The generosity of Peter and Adrian has opened a new era for us, and we know they have changed the lives of many of our artists as well.

Jo Blair, head of the Foundation for the Arts.

Provided

Jo Blair, head of the Foundation for the Arts.

Artist Shane Bosher was the 2021 recipient of the Burr-Tatham Arts Laureate Award. He says it means “a lot” that his winner this year was made possible by the past generosity of Burr and Tatham.

“When I was artistic director of the Silo Theater, Adrian and Peter became two of our founding patrons,” he explains.

“They chose to support a company that was still looking for its voice, to know what it had to say to the world. Year after year, they have made significant contributions that have supported the development of the company and the artists we have worked with.

Leigh Melville and Ben Plumbly, co-directors of Auckland auction house Art + Object.

Provided

Leigh Melville and Ben Plumbly, co-directors of Auckland auction house Art + Object.

It feels like the conversation has come full circle, says Bosher.

“They leave such an indelible mark behind them.”

Shane Cotton's Tiki artwork in situ, part of the Burr and Tatham collection.

Provided

Shane Cotton’s Tiki artwork in situ, part of the Burr and Tatham collection.

The auction has been postponed to November 11 and 13. It will take place at the Art + Object auction house in Auckland.

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