Tauranga Airport has become the official home for Mr G's iconic "Tauranga, not Towel-Wronger" painting.

The well-known local artist announced yesterday the sale of the painting that gained national recognition for its emphasis on proper pronunciation of te reo place names.

The art was designed to look like a road sign with "Welcome to Towel-Wronger" crossed out with red spray paint. Tauranga was written in capitals underneath and the correct pronunciation "Toe-rrrung-a" below.

Artist Graham Hoete said the beauty of the piece was that it was a "tongue and cheek" way of tackling the issue of pronunciation and many people were more open to receiving it that way.


Hoete grew up in Tauranga and said he regularly heard the place name mispronounced.

Tauranga Airport. Photo / File
Tauranga Airport. Photo / File

He said the piece was one of the most popular he had ever done and although he had received multiple national offers, he was stoked a local buyer had taken it.

Since the piece was made public online and in the Tauranga art gallery, many people had reached out thanking him for the piece, he said.

A first glimpse of Mr G's first-ever solo exhibition ‘Home’. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

One woman, who had lived in Tauranga since the 1950s, had contacted Hoete to say she had never known how to pronounce the city's name properly until now and had even sent a video showing him her new skill, he said.

He said to honour pronunciation was to honour the culture of the city and people entering Tauranga will be educated at the gate, which will be great.

"It's such a cool way to welcome visitors to our city."

Funnily enough, many locals had commented on Mr G's social media posts of the painting saying the Tauranga Airport or the Tauranga City Council should buy it.

Hoete said it was all part of the "nature of social media" and so many of his followers had great ideas and influence.


Tauranga City Airport manager Ray Dumble said the art piece had been purchased as part of the Tauranga Airport redevelopment, along with a range of pieces by other local artists.

He said Mr G's Towel-Wronger piece was a playful but relevant piece that brought attention to how to correctly say the name of this beloved city.

"Tauranga is a beautiful name, meaning safe anchorage or resting place and what better place to display this piece than at the gateway for thousands of travellers to the area."

He said the artist had requested that the airport not disclose how much artwork had been sold for, but confirmed that none of the artwork purchases were ratepayer-funded.

Mr G had done a national version of the "towel-wronger" painting with the word "Aotearoa" - not "Our-taya-rower" - and was set to sell it next week.

Graeme Hoete created a portrait of Kiwi aviator Oscar Garden at Tauranga Airport last year. Photo / File
Graeme Hoete created a portrait of Kiwi aviator Oscar Garden at Tauranga Airport last year. Photo / File

The auction would take place on Trade Me with a reserve price of $50,000.

Hoete hoped Auckland International Airport would make the purchase, but said the auction was open to all.