John Perry, a work of art?

John Perry was a regular customer of Copy & Print in Helensville.  He was always very particular in his instructions to us, knowing exactly what he wanted the copies, typing or printing to look like.  He had a quaint habit of always carrying small change with him in a small container to pay for his purchases.  A quiet unassuming man, living in the old movie theatre at the bottom of town, along with what has recently been shown to be a veritable treasure trove of artworks.

I, for one, never knew how respected he was in the artworld, but behind the boarded up windows and doors of his ‘home’ he was hiding some 10,000 or more pieces of art, many of which have now been shown to be, both valuable as artworks, as well as being  worth significant sums of money.  Below is an article from the Rotorua Daily Post of February 10 this year which provides more insight into the man I never really knew.  Brian Hale.

The first auction of former Rotorua Museum art director John Perry’s art collection has been a roaring success - a white glove sale, meaning every piece on the lot sold.

Perry, known for his great artistic mind, spent 20 years curating and directing the museum.

He died in June 2021, aged 77. Since Perry’s death, Webb’s auction house has been working with his family to sort through thousands of lots, which will go to auction over the next few years.

The first auction took place on February 2 with many pieces selling well past their high estimates, including a series of paintings by New Zealand artist Dick Lyne.

His 1955 work, Mt. Ngauru, which depicts an exploding volcano, reached a price of $8750, far exceeding its pre-auction high estimate of $2500.  Another painting, Newtown by Selwyn Muru, also attracted fierce bidding. It reached $11,704 - crushing its high estimate of $4000.

The sale included many Oceanic art forms and handcrafted pieces which were also met with strong buyer interest. A large model waka by Alex Coates sold for $7315 against a high estimate of $2000.

Webb’s Director of Decorative Arts, Ben Erren, said it was an amazing night.

“I’m sure John would have been chuffed to see his collection achieve a white glove auction.

“Some of the items that achieved really strong prices were by artists and craftspeople that John picked up on before anyone else in the collecting world did. These results are a testament to his sharp eye and strong sense of quality.

“John was an incredible individual and a big influence on many. It’s great to celebrate his legacy like this,” Erren said.

Erren said Perry was always “a fountain of knowledge about everything”.  “He was really informative and helped me early on in my career in terms of always offering knowledge and always encouraging robust debate around anything in terms of taonga or repatriation or the origin of certain objects.

“And the conversation was never finished. He just wanted to talk and it was never condescending. It was educational.”

Erren said Webb’s was “privileged” to hold Perry’s memorial service, with more than 600 people attending.

“He was incredibly well-respected.”

Proceeds from the auctions will go to Perry’s family. Auctions will then occur fortnightly for the next three to five years.



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