Why the late Mainfreight co-founder's family is selling his Goldie paintings

Mainfreight co-founder Neil Graham purchased the artwork between 2005 and 2013. He died in 2015....
Mainfreight co-founder Neil Graham purchased the artwork between 2005 and 2013. He died in 2015. Photo: Supplied
Paintings by iconic artist Charles Goldie will be auctioned off by the family of late Mainfreight co-founder Neil Graham – and one could set a new record.

The unique collection of Māori portraits will be sold by Auckland auction house Art+Object on March 25.

The Christchurch rich-lister assembled the pieces between 2005 and 2013 before he died in 2015 aged 71.

Goldie, who was considered the finest painter of kaumātua and people of importance, died in 1947 aged 76.

One of Graham’s sons, Lincoln resident Dean Graham, shed some light on what’s happened to the paintings.

“They are currently in an art storage place.”

Dean Graham. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Dean Graham. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Dean said the paintings were the pride of his dad’s art collection.

"He loved the Goldies . . . It wasn’t so much the value of them, it was just the matter of how amazing they were to look at.

"He had them all on a wall in his lounge between his TVs, all temperature-controlled, with art lights, and alarms.”

Dean said neither he nor his brother and sister have a place to do them justice and keep the paintings protected.

"At our places with kids and cats, it makes it bloody hard.

"So we just figured someone should enjoy them now and we can see them enjoy it and get the thrill out of owning them like dad did.”

Former Robert McDougall and Christchurch Art Gallery curator and independent art valuer Neil Roberts said there is potential for the auction to break records.

"Two or three million dollars (for a painting) is not unreasonable, New Zealand only in the last decade or so has started to get prices past $1 million,” Roberts said.

He also said because multiple pieces are going up at once, they are more likely to achieve a higher sales value compared to the sale of just one.

Colin McCahon’s 1982 painting holds the current record for the most expensive New Zealand artwork, Is there anything of which one can say look this is new? which sold for $2.45m in September 2022.

Last year, one of Goldie’s most historically significant portraits Reverie, Ena te Papatahi, of the Ngāpuhi chieftainess, was repatriated to New Zealand.

It was purchased by private collectors Chris and Virginia Anderson for a new world auction record for Goldie, at AU$1,718,182 (NZ$1.83m).

"I started doing some research about the painting and I saw there was a bit of controversy about the way it’s been held out of the country to enhance its wealth to overseas collectors, so I thought it’d be a  good one to bring back home,” Chris Anderson told the NZ Herald.

Roberts said it is unlikely the paintings will be sold to an overseas buyer with current regulations in the Antiquities Act, which protects New Zealand artwork.

"They have to make an application to actually send those paintings out of the county and if there is an objection to that they won’t go.

"Because the portraits are connected with various tribes, that’s where the objection would be.”

Before the paintings are sold they will be exhibited in Christchurch in March.

– Additional reporting NZ Herald