BNZ's plans to auction NZ artworks including by Ralph Hotere slammed by Helen Clark

By Kelvin McDonald
Credit / Webb's Auction

Helen Clark has slammed BNZ's plans to auction off $10 million of artworks by some of NZ's most important's artists, including Ralph Hotere.

The former NZ prime minister says it is likely some of the 200 artworks up for sale at Webb's Auction house, potentially to private buyers, were acquired when the bank was state-owned.

"What would need to be checked is if the treasury ever advised that there was a valuable art collection funded by what was then a state bank which should've been separated out at the time of privatisation," Clark told RNZ on Saturday.  

"These are very significant New Zealand works of art which were acquired by a state company."

On the BNZ Heritage website, the bank says "BNZ recently announced that most of the art collection will be auctioned through Webb's, with the proceeds of the sale going towards a new charitable BNZ Foundation."

Clark wants the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to block the sale, RNZ says.

"The question is whether the export control mechanism which the Ministry of Culture and Heritage administers would cover any of the artworks. There is a provision in that for a ban on export of items which are more than 50 years old and are of significant interest to New Zealand."

The Ralph Hotere artworks in the BNZ art collection are a painting 'Black Window - Towards Aramoana' and a drawing 'A Church Window at Mitimiti', both from 1982.

An artwork by Colin McCahon is expected to fetch the highest price, between $1.5 to $2.5 million. 

The first group of paintings are being auctioned today.