Art is inspected before the Aratoi Artists Auction in Masterton on Friday. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

A winning bid of $200,000 for a painting by New Zealand artist Milan Mrkusich was the highlight of the Aratoi Artists Auction in Masterton on Friday, and is the highest price paid for a work by the artist.
The painting, ‘Triptych: Homage to Rodchenko’, painted in 1966, had never been sold before and went to an anonymous Auckland bidder.

Mrkusich is considered one of New Zealand’s greatest living painters and the auction of his painting created quite a stir, Aratoi Regional Trust Board chairwoman Barbara Roydhouse said.

“The winning bidder for the Mrkusich was anonymous and only registered on the day of the auction itself,” she said.

“The excitement in the room was tremendous and palpable.”

About 200 people turned out for the sold-out fundraising event for Aratoi, with 83 lots contributed by 70 local, national and international painters, photographers, scu-

New Zealand painter Milan Mrkusich’s ‘Triptych: Homage to Rodchenko’, was the star of the Aratoi Artists Auction.

lptors, mixed-media artists, jewellers, printmakers, and ceramicists who had exhibited at the gallery.

Aratoi installed a major Mrkusich exhibition in 2014 and 2015.

There were 153 registered bidders from New Zealand and overseas, with telephone bidders making up about 30 per cent of the buyers. About 90 per cent of the art was sold.

The auction was a charity fundraiser for the award-winning museum, which puts on about 25 exhibitions each year — yet has only one full-time staff member.

The artwork was provided by artists or by their dealer galleries, some as a donation, with a percentage of all the sales returned to Aratoi. The amount raised for the gallery was still to be calculated on Sunday.

Other major artists whose work was auction included Gregory O’Brien, John Pule, Elizabeth Thomson, and Ans Westra.

The last artwork auctioned was ‘Whakarongo’, by Masterton’s Dame Robin White, also honorary patron of Aratoi Museum.

She donated a work printed on a wool bale, which sold for $10,500.

The sales continued over the weekend, which included the maquette for Neil Dawson’s Ascension sculpture sold.

Dame Robin donated the work ‘Tui and Magpie’ for a prize draw, won by Masterton art collector John Heginbotham.

Mrs Roydhouse said the Aratoi Regional Trust was grateful for all the goodwill that made the event possible, from the artists and dealer galleries involved, to the many people who donated their time and services.