Victoria University of Wellington will lose some of its mana by auctioning off a work of art by Don Binney created specifically for the university, according to a Wellington art writer.
The work – Mana Island – is up for auction after 50 years of being on display at the university. It was painted by Binney in 1971 as a thank you for the loan of a studio space while he was working as a guest lecturer at the campus.
The painting was a collaborative effort between Binney and the students who chipped in their own ideas and contributions to create the striking 2.6m x 3.6m artwork which shows Mana Island and the surrounding hills of the Porirua Harbour.
Wellington artist, poet and essayist Greg O'Brien told the Herald the work is unique.
"It's the only Binney work that could be considered a mural – it was inspired by his time in Mexico so it's big, bold, graphic and remarkable.
"It was painted for a public building – you can see it from 100 metres away. It was painted for Victoria."
He says the sale is "a sign of the times" and in his eyes is "a bit sad".
"It's always sad when a public work of art leaves the place it was made for...the place loses mana. When things are taken from their context there's aways a sense of loss but of course buildings change or are demolished over time so that's not to say it shouldn't be sold."
Nicholas Green is the chairperson of Victoria's University Students' Association Trust, which is handling the sale.
He told the Herald the Binney work was purchased by the Victoria University Students' Association (VUWSA), which in turn gifted it to the trust – but it has been decided it's no longer in the long-term interest of the trust, nor the students' association to keep it in its place.
"We did talk to [Victoria University of Wellington] about selling it to them, but as they said, times are tight and they couldn't afford it."
The work is currently listed for auction with an estimated price tag of between $500,000 and $800,000 but Green says it's "anyone's guess" what it will really sell for.
He told the Herald selling the art is in the best interest of the students' association, and in fact it could benefit the piece too.
"It actually has a little bit of sun damage from where it's been sitting....it's a beautiful work, we hope to see it in good hands and as we say, we have VUWSA's best interests at heart."