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Wellington Art

Lucy Chapman

Visual Arts


Wellington has a great range of art galleries, all of which are pretty much free to go to. Here is a brief guide to the main galleries in the area.
The Wellington City Gallery
Where: Civic Square
Admission: free, but admission charges may apply to major exhibitions
Opening hours:10-5pm daily
The City Gallery is Wellington’s principal art gallery and holds major art exhibitions including both national and international collections. Housed in the former public library building, the City Gallery has large spacious galleries on two floors. The building also houses the Michael Hirschfeld gallery, focusing on local artists, and the popular Nikau café. Recent highlights have been the Colin McCahon retrospective and the Stanley Spencer exhibition.
The Adam Art Gallery
Where: Victoria University (between Old Kirk and the Student Union Building)
Admission: free
Opening hours: Tues- Sun 11- 5 (closed Mondays)
Handily located on the Vic Uni campus the Adam Art Gallery exhibits cutting-edge contemporary art from around the world. The distinctive building designed by Ian Athfield is one of New Zealand’s newest purpose-built galleries. Don’t be put off by the minimalist architecture of the outside. The Adam offers the viewer art that is edgier and more raw than any of Wellington’s other main galleries. The art covers a broad range of disciplines including visual arts, craft, architecture, design and music. The gallery also manages the works from the Victoria University art collection and houses the phenomenal Colin McCahon Gate III. On Thursday February 26 at 3pm the Adam is inviting students to an introduction of the gallery and a tour of the current exhibition, Concrete Horizons.
Pataka Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures
Where: Corner of Norrie St & Parumoana St, Porirua city.
Admission: free
Opening hours: Mon- Sat 10- 4:30, Sun 11- 4:30
Nestled amongst the cultural wasteland that is Harvey Normans and the Mega Centre, the Pataka art gallery stands as a bastion of good taste and culture. The gallery’s particular niche is Maori and Pacific Island art as it aims to reflect the culture of the local population. As well as this, Pataka supports local artists through exhibiting and selling their work. Pataka presents art that is accessible to a wide range of people and also, with its international shows, gives the audience an insight into other cultures. During the Festival, Pataka will be showing First Nation, a collection of indigenous Canadian art works.
The Dowse
Where: 45 Laings Rd Lower Hutt
Admission: free
Opening hours: Mon- Fri 10-4, Sat & Sun 11-5
Although it’s situated all the way out in the Hutt, the Dowse is one of Wellington’s most popular galleries. The Dowse proves that it is well worth the trip, with its particular focus and strength being its wide-ranging collection of decorative arts and design. Specific items can be viewed by prior arrangement. Exhibiting a broad range of shows from costume design to graffiti, the gallery often looks to the community for inspiration. International exhibitions are no different with the Dowse often keen to add a local component to their shows. This rather hip gallery has a reputation for having its finger on the pulse, as its exhibitions show a response to current trends and ideas. A current must-see at the Dowse is FRUiTS, my visual arts pick of the Festival. FRUiTS is a collection of fashion photography from Japan.
The New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts
Where: Queens Wharf
Admission: free
The Academy of Fine Arts is dedicated to promoting and displaying both emerging and established New Zealand artists. The works are predominantly painting and decorative arts. Founded in 1882, the Academy was a major proponent in the establishment of New Zealand’s national collection of art. Since moving out of the old Museum in 1997, the Academy is housed in the old Wharf Offices building at the entrance to Queens Wharf. Today the gallery holds eight standard exhibitions a year exhibiting artists from around the country. As well as displaying the Academy’s regular exhibitions the gallery is also used for international shows, most notably the World Press Photo exhibition.
The New Zealand Portrait Gallery
Where: Bowen House (next to Bennetts book shop)
Admission: free
Opening hours: Mon- Fri 10- 4, Sat 10- 1
The gallery holds regular exhibitions displaying portraits of New Zealanders and their place in New Zealand’s history through painting, sculpture and photography. Ideally placed for students at the law school, the Portrait Gallery is housed in the temporary debating chamber in Bowen House used during the refurbishment of Parliament in the late 80s. Currently on display are the entries for the Adam Biennial Portrait Competition 2004.
The Boulevard
Where: Te Papa 5th floor
Admission: free
Opening hours: everyday 10- 6, Thursday until 9
The Boulevard is the home of New Zealand’s national collection of art. The gallery has works from the big names of New Zealand art such as Rita Angus and Ralph Hotere as well as international pieces from Dürer and Matisse. The gallery displays the art thematically to present the collection in an interesting way. As a result the Boulevard has a constant series of changing exhibitions and therefore pieces are not on display all the time. Often criticised for being too small and impossible to find, the Boulevard still manages to inspire interest and contain something for everyone. Te Papa also has several other galleries including the Terrace gallery, which is on the 6th floor and displays decorative arts as well as the Tower gallery which last year hosted the Henry Moore exhibition.