1492498045155 - Chinese expat inspired by Helen Clark is buyer of her discarded portrait

Chinese expat inspired by Helen Clark is buyer of her discarded portrait

A Chinese expat inspired to come to New Zealand by Helen Clark is happy to have snapped up a portrait of the former prime minister after it was found at Wellington’s rubbish dump.  

Auckland businessman Joe Chen secured the giant work for $1840 on Sunday night after a fierce Trade Me bidding war. 

Earlier this month, the 2.4-metre-high artwork depicting the face of New Zealand’s first female prime minister to win office at a general election was rescued from a Wellington City Council’s tip. 

While the identity of the artwork’s previous owner was not clear, council workers decided to put it up for sale with a $1 reserve.

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After news of the auction was first reported, Clark asked via Twitter for proceeds from the auction “to go to a good cause like Women’s Refuge” – to which the council readily agreed.

Chen came to New Zealand as a 20-year-old international student in 2003, partly inspired by seeing a story about Clark on a Chinese news bulletin. 

Clark had welcomed immigrants and international students, and was respected among the Chinese community, he said.

Over the years, he had seen her talking to people around Auckland, and said he was impressed by her character and personality.

“She’s pretty down to earth. I like Helen.”

Chen, who runs a mobile phone repair shop in Mt Roskill, said he liked to collect “interesting stuff”, and the mural would form the centrepiece of a gallery he plans to open

The mural, thought to have been created by artist Christopher John Finlayson, was put up as part of a genetic engineering protest on an Evans Bay boatshed in July 2002, according to Dominion Post archives.

“While other people might think it’s trash, I think it’s gold,” Chen said.