6 Mar 2015

Prized art collection goes under the hammer

12:47 pm on 6 March 2015

A highly regarded architect and art collector, Rong Sang, sat back and watched his prized art collection, spanning almost 50 years, go to new homes.

Art auction

Art collector Rong Sang has auctioned 188 pieces of his art collection to fund his retirement. Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

Last night 188 pieces of the 76-year-old's collection went under the auctioneer's hammer at the Art and Object gallery in Auckland, to fund his retirement.

Among those were works by Len Castle, Guy Ngan, Don Driver and Michael Smither.

About 400 people, collectors and enthusiasts, turned out with their wallets in hand.

Mr Sang said he and his wife Margaret started collecting in 1970.

"That was when I got my first pay cheque. We started buying simple things, simple prints first. Because you only earn very little when you first start work.

"But we made it a policy of buying regularly, at least once a month, something small, and once a year, something big.

"Sometimes you buy more in a year, depending on the price of things. If you've got a bit of money then I spend it on art. I don't have a car, I don't have a batch. We put it as a priority."

Mr Sang said luckily he and Margaret had similar tastes.

"We do have disagreements. But mostly if one of us doesn't like it, we don't buy it."

Crowd at the auction

Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman

Mr Sang said his house in Epsom, which he built to house all the artwork, was virtually empty now.

"I need to raise obviously some money so I can retire. And that's the whole purpose of this.

"But it's always been that. When I first collected, that's what we thought we would do. We're not going to buy apartments and rent them out, we're going to buy art. And hopefully the art will increase in value."

Mr Sang's favourite piece The Katoomba Fatbird by artist Don Binney went for $260,000.

He said 40 years ago, he bought it for just $20,000.

He said all he has left of his impressive collection were a fair few pots and pieces - and the memories.

Auctioneer Ben Plumbly

Auctioneer Ben Plumbly Photo: RNZ / Carla Penman