Te Papa Purchases Iconic Artworks at Paris Family Auction

Published: Thu 20 Sep 2012 05:03 PM
20 September 2012
Te Papa Purchases Iconic Artworks at the Paris Family Auction
Te Papa is delighted to announce that it has purchased iconic artworks from the Les and Milly Paris Collection for the national collection. Key works acquired include Gordon Walters’ Painting no 7 (1965), Michael Illingworth’s As Adam and Eve (1965), Brent Wong’s Mean Time Exposure (1971), and Peter Robinson’s Boy Am I Scarred Eh (1997).
‘These iconic works are already well known to New Zealanders,’ says Michael Houlihan, Te Papa Chief Executive. ‘They important acquisitions that will strengthen our collections and will feature in the new redevelopment of our Level 5 art galleries, opening next year.’
‘Les and Milly were always very generous in loaning their works for public exhibitions, and we are pleased to be able to acquire some of their favourites.’
Milly Paris says, ‘I am very pleased that some of the paintings have now gone into a public collection and will be seen by residents of and visitors to Wellington, my home town. I congratulate Te Papa on their choices, and I know that my dear late husband, Les, would be very honoured to know of their final resting place.’
Gordon Walters is known for his use of the Māori koru motif over two decades. Te Papa has four koru paintings by the artist, but Painting no 7 is particularly significant as it dates from his first exhibition of koru work in 1966. Peter Robinson’s Boy Am I Scarred Eh is from a period of this contemporary Māori artist’s career that, until now, has not been represented at Te Papa. Featuring a spiral motif and hand-written text that recalls protest placards or road signs, it refers to Colin McCahon’s 1976 ‘Scared’ series of paintings, one of which was recently acquired by Te Papa.
Michael Illingworth’s As Adam and Eve is one of his finest works – striking, provocative, and funny. Obscenity charges were brought against the artist when the painting was first shown at Auckland’s Barry Lett Galleries in 1965. The painting’s history and its ability to document shifting attitudes towards sexuality in New Zealand during the 1960s, 1970s and today, make it particularly of interest for Te Papa’s collection. Brent Wong’s Mean Time Exposure is one of his classic 1970s paintings, which rarely come up for sale. Until now, Te Papa has held only two paintings by Wong, who ranks alongside Michael Smither, Don Binney, and Robin White as one of the country’s most popular contemporary artists.
Notes to the Editor:
The collection of Les and Milly Paris is acknowledged as one of the most significant private art collections in New Zealand. The Wellington couple became ‘hooked on art’ soon after their marriage in 1963. As Milly recalls, ‘We had paintings on our walls even before we owned a dining-room table.’
Les Paris died in 2000. Milly is now moving to Sydney and is selling much of the collection that she and her husband developed over four decades.
Te Papa’s purchases were funded by the government capital grant for collections acquisitions.

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