Te Papa purchases iconic artworks at the Paris family auction

20 September 2012

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 are 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.

Media contact

Roxan Mathys, Manager Communications (Acting)
029 601 0180 or (04) 381 7083