Norwich Go Go Gorillas charity auction raises £270,000
A band of 53 life-sized gorilla sculptures created for a summer conservation art trail around Norwich has sold for £272,300 at auction.
The highest bid was £20,000 for the Freddie "Radio Go Go" Gorilla by artist Mik Richardson from Aylsham.
The 10-week art event and auction was organised by Norfolk charity Break.
Jake Humphrey, patron of Break, said he was "blown away" by the success of the trail, which had about a million visitors, and the "amazing artwork".
Top-selling Freddie, who hit the headlines over the summer when his original likeness to musician Freddie Mercury was disputed by the singer's estate, was bought by digital brand company Brandbank for its new Norwich offices.
The company also purchased Iron Ape, based on Marvel comic's Iron Man, for £3,200 and Bat Grill, inspired by DC Comic's Batman, for £6,000.
Richardson said: "It makes me wonder how much Freddie would have sold for in his original state, but I could not be happier."
He added: "I'm just over the moon to think that somebody would pay so much money for something I've done, it's incredible."
The auction started with a strong opening sale of £7,000 for Nelson, a gorilla depicting landmarks from Norwich City Centre.
Fierce bidding continued throughout the two-and-a-half hour auction as buyers were determined to secure their favourite gorillas for a place in their home, garden or office.
Each lot opened with a minimum bid £2,000, with many surprised the gorilla created in homage to Alan Partridge only sold for £5,000.
Based on a western lowland gorilla, each glass-fibre sculpture stands about 5ft (1.5m) tall and weighs about half a tonne.
Martin Green, fundraising officer for Break, a charity which cares for vulnerable people, said: "This event was about raising money for charity, inspiring visitors and showcasing the plight of one of the world's most endangered species.
"It was a sensational evening. Whilst many will be sad to see their farewell, some have been snapped up by organisations who will continue to display them around Norfolk."
With many gorillas staying in the county, Horatio, designed to look like a realistic gorilla, is making the move to Suffolk and the garden of his new owner who paid £10,000 for the sculpture by Phil Daniels, from Cawston.
The buyer, from near Framlingham, who did not wish to be named, said: "I've got a large pond with palms and bamboo and he's going there. I had my eye on it, but I didn't know if I was going to buy one. I needed to be careful or I might have gone home with three."
About 40 Norfolk artists produced work for the project, the largest of its kind in England this summer, to raise money for Break and the Born Free Foundation, to help gorilla conservation in the Congo.
Sports presenter Mr Humphrey, from Norwich, who hosted the auction, added: "It exceeded all my expectations as Norwich went wild for the gorillas.
"I thought they might get £2,000 or £3,000 [for the gorillas], but we've seen £7,500, £10,000 and £20,000.
"This is going to help Break beyond all expectations and I'm so glad they backed this project."