A rare collection of work by "living art legend" artist Ralph Hotere is expected to sell for around $400,000 when it goes under the hammer tonight.

The 12-piece collection includes an oil on board work inspired by a proposal to build an aluminium smelter at Aramoana, lithographs and paintings from 1973 to 1992.

The 81-year-old, who last year received the Order of New Zealand, is regarded as one of the country's most important living artists, said International Art Centre director Richard Thomson.

"People still see art as a sound investment and because Hotere is held in such high regard and is such a fine New Zealand artist, we expect there to be significant interest in this sale," he said.


The works are owned by the former publisher of the National Business Review, Barry Colman.

He and his late wife Cushla Martini owned the historic Carey's Bay Hotel overlooking the water at Port Chalmers, Otago, where they displayed the pieces.

Hotere lived in Otago for many years and often visited the hotel for a drink.

After the hotel was sold Mr Colman brought the collection to Auckland.

It was rare for such "an important and significant collection" of his works to come on the market, said Mr Thompson.

Hotere's works will be auctioned at the International Art Centre at 6.30pm, as part of a larger collection of early and rare works, expected to sell for up to $2 million.

Other significant works for sale were an oil on canvas by Charles Frederick Goldie, Relics of a Bygone Age, estimated to bring up to $280,000 and an oil painting of Mana Island by Don Binney, expected to bring up to $85,000.