Hundertwasser project backers have been given their first piece of the artist's work, a one-of-a-kind illustrated bible, as project funding edges towards the 40 per cent mark.

Auckland woman Alison O'Grady has donated a Hundertwasser Bibel - one of only 1000 in the world - to Whangarei Art Museum Trust, in the hopes that it will spur Whangarei people to embrace the proposed art centre at the Town Basin.

Mrs O'Grady and her late husband Ron were lifelong fans of Hundertwasser and were given the 1945-produced bible when Mr O'Grady retired as chairman of a trust he founded - Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking) - which works to protect children from sexual exploitation.

"Just the creativity of his art, the imagination - it's colourful, exciting and challenging. He also had a deep desire to preserve the natural world and he embraced our country," Mrs O'Grady said of her admiration of the artist.


At a small ceremony last week, Whangarei Art Museum Trust chairman Grant Faber and museum director Ruth Green-Cole accepted the gift from Mrs O'Grady, telling her how much it meant. Mr Faber hoped the bible was the first of a wider collection of Hundertwasser works to be displayed in the city, were the art centre project successful.

Mr Faber said the trust had arranged for another "40-odd" works to arrive from Vienna on completion of the centre.

The bible, soon to be on display at WAM, is one of only 1000 designs created by the artist. Each is illustrated with 82 works, 32 of which are collages he created specially for the bible project. The hand-made woven linen cover is different, with each one having a different colour combination within the linen weave. Hundertwasser reportedly confessed joyfully that he had never read the bible, adding that he did not prescribe to a particular dogma.

Mrs O'Grady said she had not had the piece valued and there were no bibles currently for sale anywhere in the world, but said she wanted the piece preserved "for posterity".

The Hundertwasser project action group, with 50 volunteers, reported almost 39 per cent of the $16.25 million required for the museum had been raised. The total sum needs to be raised by June 2017 for it to go ahead.