Auckland City Art Gallery

Newsletter Number 3
October/December 1981

A quarterly publication containing news, views and reviews of activities at the Auckland City Art Gallery


Contemporary New Zealand Painting

The cancellation of the Pompeii exhibition at short notice called for a replacement exhibition to furnish the East and West galleries. It was decided to show a wide selection of contemporary New Zealand paintings from the Permanent Collection. More than seventy paintings, more or less equally divided into abstract and figurative categories, were further grouped according to stylistic features and related subject matter. For example, expressionist paintings by Philip Clairmont, Rob Taylor, Alistair Nesbit-Smith and Alan Pearson were grouped together; as also were paintings of a formal-abstract nature, by Richard Killeen, lan Scott, Don Driver and Geoff Thornley. Realist and semi-realist paintings by Robin White, Peter Siddell, Michael Smither, Chris Pearson, Brent Wong and Tony Fomison constituted another group.

Homecoming 1976

The monumental Colin McCahon hanging, Hi Fi, was displayed, along with several other unstretched paintings by Alan Maddox, Tony Lane and Denys Watkins. The latter artist's Star Map with its appended ladder, brick, sticks and other objects spilled off the wall into sculpture territory. Terry Stringer's Photo-Distorted Head, which is best categorised as painted sculpture, showed how definitions of painting can be stretched.

Edith Collier In Retrospect

This exhibition was originally scheduled for showing in October 1981 but because of the acceleration in the Gallery's building programme it was moved forward to July.

Edith Collier (1885-1964) was born in Wanganui, a daughter of a farming family who were talented musicians. As well as musical ability (she played the cello) Edith was artistic. In 1903 she attended Wanganui Technical School to study art. Later she was encouraged to continue her studies in England, and from 1913 to 1921 she worked in London, Cornwall (where she had some tuition from Frances Hodgkins) as well as Ireland.

Returning home to Wanganui in 1922 was a difficult time for Edith Collier. Her first exhibition met with abuse from the press and public to such an extent that, to quote Gordon H. Brown: 'Within a short period the emerging signs of stylistic independence had dissipated and her works retreated to an earlier, less demanding style'.

However, there was a short revival. Commenting on a charcoal drawing called Native Trees, Ngutuwera, (1930-1940) Deborah Frederikie, the curator of the exhibition, writes: 'The powerful natural forms possess a quality that is essentially "New Zealand". Collier's realisation of this quality is here equal to much of the best New Zealand landscape painting produced during and since, the thirties'.

The Edith Collier exhibition was organised by the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui, and supported by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, through the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors' Council.

Los Angeles - Auckland Sister City Project

In July, as part of a wider celebration of the bicentenary of Auckland's sister city - Los Angeles - the Art Gallery mounted a display of works by Los Angeles artists.

These were works on paper from the permanent collection, and included work by David Hockney, Ed Ruscha (whose works featured in a major retrospective exhibition of his graphic works organised by this Gallery in 1978), Billy M Bengston, (who recently spent some time in Auckland), William T. Wiley, Bruce Nauman, Roy Lichtenstein, H.O. Westermann and Bruce Anderson.

Girl Arranging Flowers 1863
oil on canvas, 460 x 609 mm.


As a result of the Auckland City Council's decision to compress four years of building programme into two, the Art Gallery will be exhibiting practically all the permanent collection of painting and sculpture from mid-September until April 1982.

The paintings will be hung frame-to-frame in the four galleries and on free-standing screens.

oil, 533 x 647mm.

The reason for this programme, entitled Artichoke, is that the builders will be moving into the present storage areas in September and the problems of transporting and storing the collections elsewhere for the eight months when no storage areas will be available is too formidable a task to undertake.

So visitors will have the opportunity of studying at leisure the paintings that have been purchased or presented to the Art Gallery during the past century: the old, the new, the good, the less good and the indifferent.

Portrait of a Lady
oil on panel

The exhibition galleries will return to normal in June 1982 with the exhibition of a major overseas collection of 17th century Dutch still life painting. This exhibition, entitled Still Life in the Age of Rembrandt is being organised by the Auckland City Art Gallery.

Sculpture In The Foyer

The fourth selection from the permanent collection will be on view until the end of the year. The works include Jim Dine's The Plant becomes a Fan (five part work) in aluminium; Epstein's The Rock Drill (bronze) 1913 and Barbara Hepworth's Torso II (bronze) 1958.


The Plant becomes a fan (No. 3)
cast aluminium

From October to December each of these works will be hung on the First Floor near the entrance to the Coffee Shop, commencing with the Antonio Canale, followed by the Henri Hayden the the Rita Angus.

View of a Town


Conservator To Settle In Auckland

Ed Kulka, whose homeland is Canada, was appointed National Conservator of Works on Paper in December 1980 on a two-year contract, based at the Auckland City Art Gallery. His salary is subsidised by the Department of internal Affairs and Mr Kulka advises all the public art galleries and museums in the country regarding the care and maintenance of their drawings and prints.

Ed Kulka holds a B.A. and Master of Museology degree from the University of Toronto. In 1975, after working for the Canadian Department of External Affairs as co-ordinator of touring exhibitions, he enrolled in the Master of Art Conservation programme at Queen's University, in Kingston, Canada. There he specialised in the conservation of fine art and after graduation he was employed by the National Gallery of Canada for two years before taking up his post at the Auckland City Art Gallery.

Ed and his wife and son have settled happily in Auckland and have decided to remain permanently. We applaud their decision and wish them well.

Curator Of Prints & Drawings

Andrew Bogie's appointment as Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings was recently confirmed. Andrew holds the degree of Master of Fine Arts. He will deputise for the Director during the month of September when Dr Rodney Wilson will be abroad travelling in North America and Europe.

The Director will be finalising transport arrangements for the 1982 exhibition Still Life in the Age of Rembrandt, and undertaking planning for international exhibitions for 1983 and 1984.

Curator Back From Overseas

Alexa Johnston, Curator of New Zealand Painting and Sculpture at the Auckland City Art Gallery, spent six weeks overseas in April and May.

Alexa Johnston

She travelled first to San Francisco where among other shows she viewed a large exhibition of German Expressionist paintings and prints at the Museum of Modern Art. A visit to Mr Donald Macky, son of E. Spencer Macky, the New Zealand expatriate painter, proved very fruitful, with the possibility of an exhibition of his father's works.

In New York Alexa Johnston spent two weeks visiting galleries and sightseeing, and during this time drove to Washington in order to see as much as possible of the United States's national art collection.

Then on to London where Alexa had arranged for a special viewing of the Tate Gallery's collection of Frances Hodgkins's works. A further highlight of her London visit was a visit to Windsor Castle library to view some of the Old Master drawings in the Royal Collection.

One of the pleasures of six days spent in Paris was a visit to Claude Monet's waterlily garden at Giverny, which happily combined her interests in art history and gardening.

Times Past

The Changing Art Gallery

The current renovations and alterations being carried out in the Auckland City Art Gallery are the fourth to be undertaken since 1953.

Up to that time no major renovations had taken place in the Art Gallery apart of course from the installation of heating and electric lighting.

Still Life with Guitar 1918

After the appointment of the Ga!lery's first director, Mr Eric Westbrook, in 1952 (previously the City librarian in the adjoining building was responsible forthe Art Gallery), the accelerated exhibition programme and the plans for including other artistic functions created the urgent need for more space and better facilities.

In June 1952 after due deliberations the Auckland City Council announced their plans for the Gallery, which were reported in the Auckland Star on June 4, 1952:
As the start of a scheme to bring the atmosphere of the Auckland Art Ga!lery more into line with modern requirements, £7000 ($14,000) will be spent on internal organisation there this year. 

Budgeting for this expenditure by the City Council suggests it has abandoned for a long time any prospect of building a new art gallery, and is embarking on a modernization programme. Most of the money will be spent on the McKelvie [sic] gallery, from which drab surroundings and a Victonan dullness are to be removed. The remaining £2000 ($4000) will be for the construction of an administrative section. . . 

Changes contemplated at the gallery will open the way for poetry readings and discussions, lectures, chamber music and the use of the gallery for receptions, thus making it a true cultural centre. . .

By July proposals had been put before Council for the construction of a mezzanine floor with a sculpture court below. The sum of £5000 ($10,000) was made available for improvements to the gallery until then known as the Mackelvie Gallery, and an additional £2850 ($5700) for the construction of administrative offices. A further sum of money was allocated for lighting in the Wertheim Room (swallowed up in the 1970 alterations) so that it could be used for evening functions.

In November 1952 a new AC cable was laid in Kitchener Street in preparation for  new lighting in the Wertheim Room and the renovated Mackelvie Gallery.  The press reported criticism of the poor lighting condiitons in the Wertheim ROowm when a UNESCO exhibiiton of Da Vinci drawings (from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle) was on display, 'because fine details were lost inthe weak afternoon light'. One columnist remarked 'the least Auckland's city fathers might pay in tribute to one of ciivlisation's most incandescent figures would be a few flourescents - AC or DC' (Star, November 20, 1952)

By August 1953, a headline in the Auckland Star read 'City's art gallery being given a £20,000 new look', the first place of which it went on to say:
would be revealed to the public when the No 2 Mackelvie Gallery is reopened in about a month's time. . . Scaffolding and shrouds removed it will stand out as a complete transformation, with perspex lighting troughs paralleling the wall and cord adjustable bullseye lighting to show up the sculptural exhibits. . . Central feature of the architecture is a spiral 'floating' staircase, mounted on twin laminated wooden rails, with a steel reinforcing core. . .

The report also describes the newly built art reference library, and the offices for the director and staff plus a small kitchen.

Fog, Hawkes Bay
oil on board, 587 x 889 mm.

vThe first stage in the modernising and expansion of the Art Gallery was completed and officially declared open on October 12, 1953 in the presence of the Mayor, the late Sir John Allum, the late Cr Max Tongue, the late Mr Richard O. Gross (sculptor and chairman of the Mackelvie Trust) and the Gallery director, Mr Eric Westbrook.

The New Zealand Herald commented on October 7, 1953:
Great improvements have already been made in the main municipal room, and the director, Mr Westbrook has a programme of additions which, if carried out in the next few years, will go far to make the gallery worthy of Auckland.


Acquisition of a major collection of European prints

The Gallery is proud to announce the acquisition of a substantial and valuable collection of European prints from the collection of the late Dr Walter Auburn, a renowned Auckland connoisseur and collector.

Dr Auburn was a patron of the Auckland Gallery Associates and honorary consultant on prints at the Auckland City Art Gallery. He commenced collecting as late as the 1950s but within a comparatively short time had assembled a collection quite unique in this part of the world. On his death, extensive collections of Stefano della Belia (1610-1664), Werizel Hollar (1607-1677), Jacques Callot (1592/3-1635) and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) were placed in the custody of a charitable trust.

The works recently acquired from Dr Auburn's estate include several important examples from the following artists: Aidegrever, the Beham brothers, Annibale Caracci, Corot, Daumier, Dürer, Goltzius, Coya, Grimaidi, Merian (father and son), Morin, Legros, Pissaro, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Van Leyden, Van Ostade and many others. Full lists of the works acquired will be published in the annual Gallery Bulletin.

The Large Cannon
(from the Auburn collection)

Dr Auburn was born in Cologne and graduated in medicine from Heidelberg University. In 1933 he emigrated to Britain and took up general practice in Manchester. During the Second World War he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and took part in the D-Day Normandy landings. In 1948 he, and his family, emigrated to New Zealand where he began a practice in Mount Roskill, Auckland. He became active in the New Zealand College of General Practitioners, establishing the Student Health Service at Auckland University in 1967. For ten years prior to his retirement he remained there, working also at the North Shore Teachers' Training College and the psychiatric outpatients' ward at Auckland.

Many works from his extensive collection were exhibited in Auckland-some nationally. From time to time his generosity led him to gift works to the Gallery. In 1958 a View of the Castle Sant Angelo, Rome, by Stefano delia Bella, was given. In 1961 a Drawing for the Prisoner by Anne Severs, and in 1962 a Nude by Jacqueline Bez. Plate 43 of the Miserere cycle by Georges Rouault: We are doomed to death, we and all that is ours was gifted in 1971, a Flight into Egypt after Martin Schangauer in 1976, and in 1979, not long before his death, Dr Auburn presented six plates of the Harlot's Progress by Williarn Hogarth.

The already valuable collection of Works on Paper at the Auckland City Art Gallery has been substantially enhanced by this new acquisition and Dr Auburn's long lasting involvement with the Gallery has found a permanent memorial.


Dunedin Harbour from Flagstaff Hill 1872

George O'Brien was born in County Cork but by the time he was eighteen he was in Australia. He arrived in Dunedin in 1863. His training as an engineer and architectural detail of his draughtsman is reflected in the watercolour and pencil treatments of landscape and townscape subjects. O'Brien was a founder of the Otago Art Society.

Associates News and Views

'How The Gallery Works' Series Of Lecturesv vThe first lecture in this series is reported on herein. With a number of other attractions in the city that night, attendance was disappointing. Those who came heard an interesting talk which will be repeated next year.

Further talks in this series will give members a background on how a large art gallery works and the matters which have to be considered by the heads of the various departments.

vArtichoke Spectacular

Members will have read that the Gallery is bringing many of its works out of storage because of building alterations. This seemed a good occasion to have a party to allow members to feast on the visual riches-and to have a companionable supper, organised by our Social Committee. There will also be music as described under the programme heading. This will be our end-of-year party-so don't miss it!

John Walker

Despite the short notice which precluded any public advertisement, there was a lively interested audience in the new lecture theatrette at the Gallery on Monday 12 July at 6 p.m. John Walker, the eminent British artist, lectured on his working methods, and illustrated his talk with coloured slides. He showed how great painters from the past, such as Rembrandt, Velasquez, Goya, Picasso, Renoir and Matisse have influenced him. It was perhaps surprising to realize that the abstract motif which we can recognise so frequently in his paintings today, is derived from the arresting figure of Goya's The Duchess of Alba.

Andrew Bogle

Andrew Bogle, the Gallery's Curator of the Prints and Drawings collection, gave a very informative address to a disappointingly small audience of Associates on 16 July. The address ranged from details of how the collection is stored and prepared for exhibitions, to purchasing policies. Andrew showed slides of various works which have been acquired over the years, ranging from Mackelvie collection prints donated in 1884 to some recent acquisitions.

By comparing prices paid by the Gallery for a number of 19th Century prints in the 1950s and 1960s with current market values, Andrew graphically illustrated escalating art prices and the need to make judicious purchases now. The limited funds available for purchasing works on paper and the diversity of schools and media represented in the collection, means money has to be critically apportioned. The procedure by which the Gallery buys works from foreign dealers and auctions was illustrated by reference to catalogues, illustrations, condition reports, etc.

The slide lecture brought home the high quality of certain of the collections, especially 19th Century French prints, 18th Century Italian prints, contemporary American trends and British Prints and Drawings.

Items are available for private viewing by appointment.