Art collection on show for the first and last time at Northcote's Northart gallery

Lawyer turned art collector Warwick Brown features some of his collection at Northart, before selling them off to auction in May.
Lawyer turned art collector Warwick Brown features some of his collection at Northart, before selling them off to auction in May.

Being an art collector might just be more exciting than it is expensive, when you hear collector Warwick Brown's acquisition tales for most of his collection.

I once snuck out down the side staircase of my firm, leaving a room full of clients, to run up Queen Street to buy a piece of Tony Fomison's, Brown said.

"It's the ones you miss that haunt you," he said.

Tony Fomison's Lucifer Evil Flower, 1980.
Tony Fomison's Lucifer Evil Flower, 1980.

Family Reunion is a new exhibition in Northcote's Northart gallery, before Brown sells his whole collection at an auction in May.

The exhibition features only 30 works from his extensive collection, which have never before, and will never again, been hung together in a gallery.

Warwick and Kitty Brown photographed for Art New Zealand, 1978. Pictured behind them are works by Don Driver, Robert Ellis and David Armitage.
Warwick and Kitty Brown photographed for Art New Zealand, 1978. Pictured behind them are works by Don Driver, Robert Ellis and David Armitage.

It features several celebrated New Zealand artists such as Colin McCahon, Tony Fomison, Pat Hanly and Ian Scott. 

As a young and aspiring artist, Brown's father challenged him to name a modern artist making a living. When he couldn't name anyone, he succumbed to his father's wishes and became a wealthy lawyer.

But, the self-confessed art nut's passion would not be quelled by a high rise office, and he used his wealth to begin what would become an extension art collection.

"Artist have to have buyers or they will starve, so I jumped into the equation from the other end," he said.

Brown's wife Kitty, died 11 days short of their 50-year anniversary. 

The auction, entitled called The Warwick and Kitty Brown Collection, is a commemoration of their marriage, and the accompanying catalogue will feature a short essay about the pair's life spent buying art.

When she heard about my auction, gallery manager Wendy Harsant saw an opportunity to shoehorn some art out of me for North Shore people to see, he said.

"I couldn't say 'no' to Wendy."

Brown says selling his art will free up some space on his walls, and mind, to find space for his own works and future passion projects.

"I need to take stock and re-invent myself," he said.

The Warwick and Kitty Brown Collection is being auctioned in May.

Family Reunion opens February 18, 5pm. Opens daily until March 12 at Northart gallery.

LAINE MOGER | STUFF | February 18 2017