Grand show planned for Auckland Art Gallery reopening

One of the world’s best art collections may go on show when the Auckland Art Gallery reopens next year.

Gallery director Chris Saines said he hoped all 15 Robertson Collection paintings would be here by mid-2011 for the opening, displaying 1875 to 1951 works by Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Salvador Dali, Georges Braque, Andre Derain and others.

“But it depends on whether Julian [Robertson] will be able to get everything here,” he said of the billionaire benefactor.

Five adjoining spaces and more than 400sq m of floorspace on level one of the Kitchener Wing will be used for the Julian and Josie Robertson galleries and work there is almost finished.

Floor levels have been evened, partitions built and a new suspended ceiling installed, recessed from the walls to show off the ornate plaster cornices in the 1800s building.

Plywood covers the floor but when the galleries open, these will be clad in American oak.

Other galleries will be named after benefactors. Saines said Harriet and Michael Friedlander had made “a phenomenal contribution to the gallery over the years” and a gallery would be named after them, along with the Gibbs’ Family Gallery on level one of the new building to display contemporary New Zealand art, named after Jenny and Alan Gibbs.

The entire gallery has 14,620 works of art, most stored off-site at secret locations until next year’s reopening.

Saines said the $121 million upgrade would “oxygenate” the collection and allow about 800 works to be displayed at any one time.

A multi-level building has been developed at the waterfront end, increasing floorspace by 75 per cent but allowing a 130 per cent display space increase, he said.

A learning centre has been built and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest glass tension facade will clad the face of the new addition.

“An engineer from Holmes Consulting described it as a ‘look-Mum-no-hands’ atrium because it won’t look like the glass is supported by anything,” Saines said.

The East Gallery’s mezzanine floor has been removed and the area previously used for storage has become a gallery with natural light flooding down from roof-top windows encased in a railway carriage-style structure.

Ornate plaster work and cornices have been reinstated, true to the original interior and East has been returned to its original configuration.

Hawkins Constructions’ tower crane on the site is due to be dismantled soon.


  • $121 million renovation/strengthening/extension
  • Hawkins Construction handover early next year
  • Open to the public middle of next year
  • Seismic strengthening, big new addition
  • 75 per cent increase in exhibition capacity
  • 800 of the 14,620 art works to be displayed
  • New “named” galleries almost finished
  • Friedlanders, Gibbs, Robertsons honoured

Article courtesy of New Zealand Herald online.  It was written by Anne Gibson. If you’d like to read more about our involvement with this lengthy project, visit the project page.