While a solo Colin McCahon auction event raised over $1 million this evening, the star work of the collection failed to reach its reserve.

The Auckland auction was dedicated to McCahon and the centenary year of his birth and raised $1.7m under the hammer, Art + Object's Ben Plumbly said.

"To have one whole auction dedicated to one artist's works, it's never been done before."

"There were some really phenomenal results and we're delighted," he said.

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The most expensive work up for sale – Elias will he come will he come to save him – failed to meet its $1m reserve.

The painting was estimated to sell for between its reserve and $1.5m but the highest bid was $875,000.

Plumbly said the vendor will now enter negotiations with the highest bidder for the painting. If the $1m reserve isn't met, it will be passed in.

Greg Moyle and the Colin McCahon painting Kauri Tree Tops that he's selling so he can buy more art for his Mt Albert Grammar School collection. Photo / Alex Burton
Greg Moyle and the Colin McCahon painting Kauri Tree Tops that he's selling so he can buy more art for his Mt Albert Grammar School collection. Photo / Alex Burton

However, some of the 21 works up for grabs earned more than expected.

Cross raked in almost twice its estimated price when it sold for $254,000, while The First Bellini Madonna commanded $420,000.

Detail from one of the more colourful McCahon works in the Art + Object catalogue. Photo / Supplied
Detail from one of the more colourful McCahon works in the Art + Object catalogue. Photo / Supplied

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