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Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society have bought the work The Haymaker Series I-V by Hutt Valley artist Shane Cotton.
The 9m long by 2m high acrylic-on-linen work consists of five large painted panels, hung side-by-side.
DPAG director Cam McCracken said the work would be co-owned and displayed by the two galleries.
''This could well become a precedent for other cultural institutions in this country in these times of ever-increasing prices in the art world and diminishing acquisitions budgets.''
Mr McCracken would not reveal how much the work cost.
Cotton had affiliation with both cities, graduating from Christchurch's Ilam School of Fine Arts and spending a year in Dunedin as a University of Otago Frances Hodgkins Fellow. Mr McCracken said DPAG had one work by Cotton.
''This is a marvellous way to rectify this anomaly in a bold and audacious manner ... This is arguably the most significant work produced by Cotton in many years and will, without a doubt, be considered a key work in his oeuvre in years to come.''
He expected the work to be on public display at DPAG early next year.
However, the work would be displayed at the gallery on July 30 to give representatives from both galleries, society members, local dignitaries and the South Island arts community the chance to celebrate the artwork addition.