A distinctly Kiwi collection of New Zealand folk art from the estate of a leading connoisseur is going under the hammer.

Rare sculptures of striking wahine, kauri gum busts of Maori chiefs, carved pipes and treasure boxes, early colonial pottery, maps, even a Jim Beam "Hone Heke" bourbon decanter all feature in the Cordy's auction house sale in Auckland next week.

The remarkable collection of the late Ngaire Hart is already attracting widespread attention from fellow collectors and keen Kiwiana admirers.

Auctioneer Andrew Grigg said it was an "exceptional" and "special" sale that represents New Zealand's relatively short history.

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"Raising these items on a pedestal is a celebration of who we are and where we have come from; they speak of us," he said.

The Jane Brenkley diorama of a Maori pa is expected to attract a lot of attention. Photo / Supplied
The Jane Brenkley diorama of a Maori pa is expected to attract a lot of attention. Photo / Supplied

As an antique dealer, adventurous world traveller and photographer of nature and portraiture, as well as being a keen tramper and amateur botanist, Grigg said Hart was a "brave and passionate collector" who wasn't bound by so-called fashionable collecting, like Royal Doulton and Victorian chiffoniers.

She would hunt out makers who created objects for their own satisfaction, Grigg said, along with historical commercially produced items that spoke of New Zealand and resonated with her, amassing a vast collection of unique artefacts.

Hart, who passed away in 2018 aged 65 after a long battle with cancer, would then carefully curate her finds before filling her family home at Port Waikato with them.

More than 455 pieces are featured in Tuesday's auction, amounting to most of Hart's beloved collection. The Herald understands that her family have retained a few selected treasures.

Wharetana pottery ware and pieces carved by famed New Zealand artist and craftswoman Jane Brenkley (1882-1973) with Māori motifs form the major pillars of the sale, including a unique folk art diorama of a Māori pa, signed and dated 1939. It could fetch as much as $4000.

A Crown Lynn Wharetana Maori art pottery 'Kokowai Bowl'. Photo / Supplied
A Crown Lynn Wharetana Maori art pottery 'Kokowai Bowl'. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand's history of arts and crafts show "a real can do attitude", Grigg says, which is exemplified by Brenkley, who raised 11 children, worked as a midwife, and helped on the family carve, all the while producing a prolific body of work.

"Ngaire was addicted to Brenkley's creative spirit and amassed one of the largest private collections of her work," Grigg told the Herald.

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"This together with her unique collection of Crown Lynn Wharetana 'Maori Art Pottery' and other items makes this the most significant collection of its type to be offered at auction. No museum holds such a body of these works."

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Other artefacts include a late 19th century, large Peter Hutson & Co. sculpted pottery figure of a "Māori wahine", which is estimated to fetch $10,000-$14,000, and a rare Thomas Norman Lovatt glazed terracotta pottery bust of the Maori chief, Pomare II (Ngapuhi) who was a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi.

There are also three early 20th century turned kauri foundry moulds for spirit bottles, five framed Anneke Borren pottery tile panels, and Sherwin & Cotton Maori portrait tile of famous guide, Sophia.

Grigg says although Hart was not an ethnographic art collector, she was a significant gatherer of "artefacts", and in Aotearoa, invested in collecting folk art, objects and ceramics, with particular reference to Te Ao Māori. She was also employed with Cordy's for a number of years where she was known as a "passionate collector until the end".

"We know she would be delighted to see her collection dispersed to fellow devotees," Grigg said.

Tuesday's starts at 2pm at Cordy's new premises at 553 Mount Eden Rd.