Three works by one of New Zealand's most celebrated artists are expected to sell for up to $1.5 million when they are auctioned this month.

The paintings by Don Binney, who died in 2012, show off his famed style and love of Auckland's West Coast and, in particular, New Zealand birds.

The works all date to Binney's most celebrated and soughtafter period of 1965-1970 and are being auctioned off by Art+Object as part of its Important Paintings and Contemporary Art auction on November 29.

Other artists featured in the collection include Bill Hammond, Tony de Lautour, Jeffrey Harris, Heather Straka, Michael Smither and Andrew McLeod.


Art director for the auction house Ben Plumbly said auctioning one Binney painting was significant in itself.

Having three available at the same time was unheard of.

"This is an unprecedented offering insofar as never before have three such significant paintings been offered together in the same auction.

"We haven't had a major Binney painting at auction for a number of years — and then all of a sudden, three come in.

"It's just the reality of what we do in the winds of supply. Sometimes the planets align and we get a perfect storm, which is what's happened here.''

The paintings are all highly valuable individually, and together are worth between $1.1m to $1.5m.

Pastoral, Te Henga is worth between $450,000 to $650,000.

Beyond Kuataika was bought by the current owner from the Peter McLeavey Gallery in 1970 and is valued at between $280,000 to $380,000.

The last work, Summer Fernbird II, is worth between $350,000 and $450,000.

"Taken together, they offer a kind of mini-retrospective of Binney's iconic bird paintings," Plumbly said.

The late Don Binney pictured in 2012 at an exhibition of his work at the Auckland Art Gallery. Photo / Phil Walter
The late Don Binney pictured in 2012 at an exhibition of his work at the Auckland Art Gallery. Photo / Phil Walter

It is expected the works will be bought by a private collector or collectors in New Zealand.

"We get truly significant paintings that are about the nation's history and heritage and that is genuinely pretty special and rare," Plumbly said.

"We do love the idea that they might go into a public institution — like Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki or Te Papa Tongarewa. But the simple reality is that in the last few years, we're seeing less of the institutions buying paintings at this type of level of value.

"That's just the reality of the current times, really, and their funding situation.

"So it is unlikely that they will be purchased by a public collection and more likely, I would think, that they would be bought by a serious private collector of contemporary New Zealand paintings."