Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Gromit sale raises a grand £2.3m

The auction of Gromit statues raised money for Bristol Royal Hospital for Children
The auction of Gromit statues raised money for Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

An auction of giant Gromit sculptures has raised more than £2.3 million for charity.

Art fans from across the world were locked in a fierce bidding frenzy at the sale, hosted by Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott.

Five hundred bidders crammed into a specially-erected pavilion in Bristol, with 1,889 taking part in the four-and-a-half-hour auction online.

The focus of the sale was 81 5ft tall dogs decorated by artists, celebrities and designers including Sir Quentin Blake, Jools Holland and Cath Kidston.

Pixar's Gromit Lightyear - based on the Toy Story character - was the star lot, reaching a staggering £65,000.

Watch Out, Gromit! by English cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and Aardman Animation's Nick Park's Newshound received joint second highest bids, fetching £50,000 each.

The sculptures, weighing about 90lb on average, had previously attracted hundreds of thousands of people to Bristol, where they were displayed as a public arts trail over the summer.

Eleven smaller Gromits, weighing 33lb, were also auctioned by Wonnacott during the sale, which saw bids from Australia, America and Japan.

After hours of tense bidding, the 91 Gromits had reached a grand total of £2,357,000 - more than doubling previous estimates of £1,000,000.

Funds raised will support Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal, which is raising £3.5 million for an expansion of Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

Speaking after the auction, a stunned Mr Park said the amount of money reached had wildly surpassed his expectations.

"I couldn't wait to see the Pixar Gromit Lightyear go because obviously that was a top runner," he said.

"It just kept climbing. When the first few started climbing I started tingling. It was double the target.

"It is obviously for the children's hospital, everyone has been so generous, the people in the room, on the internet and the artists.

"Harry Hill, for example, he just said yes without knowing what the commitment was.

"It has been really, really exciting. It's all been summed up tonight, people have really put their money where their mouth is and shown how much they care for the children's hospital and I guess, for Gromit too.

"He's done well, that lad. I'm very proud to lend my dog."

Mr Park attempted to bid on some of the adult Gromits himself, but could only afford a 3ft tall version, which he is planning to donate.

"I did bid on a few but they kept shooting up," he said. "I wasn't prepared for the first two to reach £36,000, that was something I hadn't prepared for."

Notable lots included One Direction's star Zayn Malik's The Green Gromit, which secured £26,000 after a online battle.

Jools Holland's Bumble Boogie - a musical Gromit that played a tune from its plinth - sold for £20,000.

Celia Birtwell's Sugar Plum fetched £22,000, Peter Lord's Salty Sea Dog £32,000 and hat designer Philip Treacy's Butterfly reached £20,000.

A Gromit featuring Cath Kidston's recognisable Antique Rose print fetched £30,000.

Nicola Masters, director of the Grand Appeal, said: "The Gromits have captured the public's imagination in a way we could never have dreamt of.

"The trail alone hugely exceeded our expectations, followed by the tens of thousands that attended the exhibition."

A pop-up exhibition, titled The Greatest Dog Show On Earth, held before the auction, drew crowds of 22,000.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal has pledged to raise £3.5 million to support the expansion of Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

It hopes to fund state-of-the-art equipment, family facilities and child-friendly artwork to complement a £31 million investment by the NHS.

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