Two police escorts accompanied Pāpāmoa artist Mr G when he dropped his $1 million gumboot off at the Tauranga Art Gallery today.

Mr G, also known as Graham Hoete, has pledged to auction off the carved artwork to raise $1 million for Mike King's I AM HOPE charity and its Gumboot Friday campaign on April 5.

Residents of Tauranga Moana will be the first in New Zealand to get a close-up look at the artwork during its stay in the gallery in the next two weeks.

Hoete, 40, said the reaction to his bold pitch, launched on Seven Sharp last night, had been "amazing".

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"I spent most of the night replying to messages. There has been overwhelming support from New Zealand."

Hoete said the idea for the carved gumboot came to him a couple of years ago.

It was inspired by a tradition that developed among his fans of bringing him their gumboots to sign while he is painting his signature street murals.

"It's an expression of my journey with the gumboot. For ages I've had random Kiwis coming up to me wanting me to sign their gumboots.

"I want to tell that story through an art piece."

Mr G had a police escort when he dropped off his $1m artwork at the Tauranga Art Gallery. Photo / supplied
Mr G had a police escort when he dropped off his $1m artwork at the Tauranga Art Gallery. Photo / supplied

He recently started studying whakairo (carving) under Wairoa-based contemporary artist Todd Couper.

Hoete said he had started the artwork intending it for his exhibition at the Tauranga Art Gallery in November.

When he heard about his longtime friend Mike King's Gumboot Friday campaign - a fun way to raise money for kids' counselling - Hoete cooked up a new plan.

"I thought what I will do is donate this piece to the campaign.

"I am the creator of this piece and I have a right to name it, so I called it the Kauri Kamuputu, which is Māori for gumboot, aka the Million-dollar Gumboot."

He said he believed the carving could be an iconic and game-changing piece of Kiwi art.

"I want to make that gumboot a real Kiwiana symbol of hope."

His donation was also motivated by his own mental health struggle, which led him to become a vocal ambassador for suicide awareness and prevention.

"Five years ago when I was living in Sydney with my wife I went through a very real suicidal point in my own life, so I can connect in a very authentic and real way to the cause."

Hoete said he had done his bit by creating the work and "putting it out there" in a big, bold way.

"Now I am leaving it in the hands of New Zealand."

He was keen to find a way for ordinary, non-millionaire Kiwis to work towards collectively buying the artwork.

At least one Givealittle campaign has started with that goal in mind.

Mike King, New Zealander of the Year and founder of the I AM HOPE charity, said Hoete's donation was "the kindest and most extraordinary gesture" he had ever seen an artist make.

"I mean you have a $1 million art piece up for sale and you want to give every cent to the kids of New Zealand for counselling. The man should be knighted.

"For him to do this shows what a real leader looks like.

"If I had a million bucks I'd buy it."

Tauranga Art Gallery exhibitions manager Duane Moyle said the gallery was proud to host the artwork for a couple of weeks in the lead up to its action on Gumboot Friday, April 5.


GUMBOOT FRIDAY

- April 5
- Wear gumboots
- Walk with your mates
- Give a gold coin
- Raise money to give kids free counselling
- More at iamhope.org.nz