Les and Milly Paris began their legendary New Zealand art collection soon after they were married in 1963 when they acquired a portrait of a Maori Boy by Peter McIntyre, a purchase that Les later confessed to having lied about as it was so seemingly beyond their means, claiming instead that it was a gift from grateful clients. From these inauspicious beginnings the Paris?s went on to build one of the largest, most finely nuanced and well-provenanced private art collections in Australasia. By the time Jim Barr interviewed Les and Milly in early 1977 for Art New Zealand the collection included major works by Milan Mrkusich, Geoff Thornley, Michael Smither, Colin McCahon, Don Binney, Allen Maddox, Don Driver, Brent Wong and Gordon Walters. The Paris collection grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s when photography became a focus, particularly the work of Peter Peryer, Marie Shannon, Gavin Hipkins, Les Cleveland and Fiona Pardington.
In 1992 the Paris Collection was the subject of an exhibition at the Wellington City Art Gallery entitled Hit Parade: Contemporary Art from the Paris Family Collection. The cover of the catalogue shows Les and Milly in their sitting room surrounded by three decades of collecting. Works by Walters, Richard Killeen, Thornley, Ralph Hotere, Driver, Smither, Mrkusich, Julian Dashper and Theo Schoon adorn the walls, salon-style from floor to ceiling. In every room important works by our leading artists were displayed. A tour of their Wellington home at this time was quite literally a survey of New Zealand art. The collection continued to be added to well into the Twenty First Century with works by Ronnie van Hout, Shane Cotton, Michael Stevenson, Stephen Bram and Seraphine Pick adding a vital contemporary voice to the collection.