American billionaire donates works to Auckland Art Gallery

American billionaire Julian Robertson is gifting 15 major works of art -- including paintings by Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian -- to the Auckland Art Gallery.

Announcing the gift today, the gallery said it was the largest ever made to an art museum in Australasia.

The late 19th to mid 20th century paintings by prominent European artists come from the private collection of New Yorkers Julian and Josie Robertson, who have strong ties to New Zealand -- including ownership of the Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers golf courses.

In 2006, the Auckland Art Gallery organised an exhibition of 12 works from the Robertson collection, also shown at Te Papa in Wellington. Six of those works are included in the gift. "We have had a lifelong love affair with New Zealand. We love Auckland. And we love these pictures. That's why we were so pleased when we brought these works to New Zealand that New Zealanders seemed to enjoy them as much as we do," the Robertsons said in a statement. "Frankly, bringing the pictures was probably the most appreciated thing we have ever done. We are delighted to be able to make this gift." NZPA WGT nb