History of the Academy



 "The list of Academy exhibitors is a "who's who" of New Zealand artists and craftspeople and there are few important artists who have not exhibited here at some stage, often remarkably early in their careers. Probably the list also includes artists whose work is not yet as widely known or appreciated as it will come to be..." 

-The Right Honourable Allan Highet, Minister of the Arts, at the Academy centenary 1982

'C D Barraud'  oil on canvas byJames Nairn 1898


The Academy is founded in 1882

A meeting was held in Wellington on 28th June 1882 in order to establish a Fine Arts Association, with esteemed Portrait painter William Beetham in the chair. C D Barraud was the first President. 

The object of the Association was to promote and encourage fine arts in New Zealand by way of exhibitions and art unions. An interim ‘survey exhibition’ to evaluate the quality of members work was held in March 1883 and in July the first official Annual Exhibition followed with 307 exhibits shown in rooms at Lyon Blair's store in Hunter St.

Early exhibitors included such prominent artists as John Gully, William Hodgkins, James Nairn and Gottfried Lindauer. Sir William Jervois, the Governor, was invited to be patron and open the first exhibition, which he accepted, establishing a tradition of vice-regal patronage which still exists today.

The first Academy Council 1882 

Bring a lady and get in free!

The art unions were a major fund raising tool as the winnings had to be spent on pictures from the exhibition at which the tickets were sold. Subscriptions were 1 guinea a year, including ten shillings and sixpence for a ticket in the art union. Members were offered greater privileges; among them they were allowed "to escort on e lady to all exhibitions and to be admitted free". The Academy finished it's first yearwith 122 members and adream to build Wellington's first Art gallery.

The Whitmore St Gallery


A first for Wellington

Ten years of fundraising and protracted negotiations with government and local business leaders saw the construction and opening in 1892 of Wellington’s first art gallery, built on recently reclaimed land provided by the government in Whitmore St – now the site of the PSIS building. However with only one or two exhibitions each year and with no collection of paintings, the building could not really be described as a gallery, and was usually described as a hall.

Petrus Van der Velden 'Studio Scene' watercolour

Art Classes at the Academy

Letting the hall was easy as there was increasing demand from members for art classes and in 1892 James Nairn established the Wellington Art Club which hired the Academy gallery for 5 shillings plus the cost of gas, and met monthly in the Academy rooms. Nairn was keen to promote opportunities for artists to discuss art and was a shining light in the New Zealand art world of the time.

A custodian was required to be in attendance and this was the Academy’s newly appointed caretaker, H. C Williams, whose unique understanding of the gallery’s gas system for lighting and heating made him indispensable. Williams was an Academy fixture for about forty years, a small bearded man in frock coat and top hat who was known to members as “Catalogues”, which he sold at exhibitions.

The Academy hall was a popular venue for a variety of activities from ambulance lectures to dramatic performances, which were so successful that a stage was added and a grand piano purchased. But there were at most only two exhibitions a year.

C F Goldie 'Memories: Te Hei', presented to the NAG in 1936


New Century, new faces

In 1895 the Academy bestowed the first Life Memberships and held a major exhibition of the work of J. C Richmond, C.D Barraud and John Gully.

Between 1892 and 1928 Frances Hodgkins exhibited forty seven paintings in the Academy. She was awarded a prize in 1895 ‘for the best study in colour from life’. Dorothy Kate Richmond exhibited from 1885 and was a Council member for about 30 years.

James Nairn was appointed teacher at the Wellington School of Design in 1891. He joined the Academy Council in 1890 and was Vice President for about five years. he also established Pumpkin Cottage, a gathering place for artists, at Silverstream in 1894.

Other notable artists to exhibit were Raymond McIntyre, Charles Goldie, Girolamo Nerli, James Nairn and Petrus Van der Velden. Goldie showed five pictures in 1909 and seven in 1910 and was an Artist member.

Petrus Van der Velden 'Otira' oil on canvas

Van der Velden at the Academy

In 1903 the Wellington Town Clerk asked the Academy to exhibit four paintings by Petrus Van der Velden, in return for paying half the costs the Academy could charge a small admission fee. The pictures were shown in the Annual Exhibition and were so popular that the season was extended and the charge reduced to allow as many people as possible to see the paintings. A Hungarian band played in the gallery for an hour on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Selection committee 1928


Wet and Unfinished paintings rejected

By then a member of the Academy, in 1905 Van der Velden offered a painting “My First Trial” for one hundred pounds. The Academy, evidently nearly as short of money as the artist, offered to buy the painting on time payment in equal, interest free payments. The painting became part of a major collection of his work after his death when a large number of his paintings were anonymously presented to the Academy in 1922. Acquiring works of art was the focus of Academy activity for some years.

A problem still encountered today was revealed in 1909 when one of Van der Velden’s paintings, already on the wall, was removed by the council as being “in too incomplete a state for exhibition”.

Frances Hodgkins 'The Orange Sellers, Tangiers' watercolour shown in the 1905 Annual Exhibition

It was the Art that impressed

In the 75th Anniversary catalogue of 1964 W.S. Wauchop, an artist member for nearly half a century and a member of the Council, including as president, for 26 years, reminisced: ”When I paid my first visit to Wellington in 1910, one of my earliest calls was to the Academy’s gallery in Whitmore St. I cannot say I was impressed by the stark little building which I approached through an iron gate. There was just one large room. But I was impressed with the collection of pictures which included Brangwyn’s large‘Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice’ which made a vivid impression on me, one that has remained always.”


Although Australian artists sent work to Wellington in the late 1890's, proposals for an interchange of pictures between Wellington and the Canterbury and Auckland Art Societies were not well received, and collaboration between the four main centres has been most noticeable by its absence.

Architects drawing of proposed new Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery

Looking for a new home

The Academy Galleries were situated in a “rather unsatisfactory building” in Whitmore Street from 1882 until 1936. The design and construction reflected the lack of money and dissatisfaction had been voiced almost immediately. The lowest tender had been accepted, construction hasty, and the Academy had moved in almost before the mortar had set, only to find itself deflected from encouraging and promoting art by the need to manage the building.  It was rented as a drill hall and, when a stage was added, for dramatic productions. A second floor was added during the First World War to accommodate a watercolour gallery and the growing collections.

Nugent Welch 'The Green Peninsula' watercolour shown in the 1926 Annual Exhibition

The National Gallery at Buckle St

Throughout the 1920’s and 40’s the Academy Council was largely preoccupied by gaining approval and fund-raising for the establishment of the National Gallery.

Sydney Higgs, Sydney Thompson, Evelyn Page, Maud Sherwood, Marcus King, Archibald Nicoll, Christopher Perkins and Nugent Welch were major figures as exhibitors and some as councillors through these years.

Welch exhibited in the Academy from about 1904 until the late 1960's, he was the official war artist in 1918 -1919 and served on the Academy Council from 1919 - 1948.

DK Richmond 'Zinnias' watercolour 1926,   exhibited from 1895 and was a council member for 30 years

Gifting The Collection

1936 saw the culmination of decades of work and a new direction for the Academy. In return for donating the proceeds of the sale of the Whitmore St building and gifting the Academy collection of around 300 paintings to the nation, it was agreed that a gallery be provided in the new Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery in Buckle Street.

The Academy collection and the National Collection which the Academy had also played a large role in establishing was the beginning of the National Collection now housed by Te Papa.


Peter McIntyre 'Parachutists landing on Galatos' 1943

The war artists  

The military took over the National Gallery, apart from four small rooms, for nearly seven years during and after the Second World War resulting in the Academy having to vacate its Buckle St premises.

The Academy encouraged the Government to appoint war artists and some younger members served overseas with several becoming war artists. This connection has continued to the present day - from the official World War II Artist Peter McIntyre (he was later on the Academy council from 1957-1965) to current Council artist member and Army artist Matt Gauldie.

view the Return of the Unknown Warrior Exhibition

Helen Stewart 'Sofa' oil Helen Stewart first became a member in 1923, and was part of  BARC Salon shown in 2007

Academy moves back to town

During the war the National Gallery was given the tearooms in the DIC building, and the Academy exhibitions in the DIC usually comprised about 250 pictures and a few pieces of sculpture and pottery. Sales were good however and highlighted the main drawback of the Buckle St building – it was too far from the CBD.

The Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery with war Memorial Carilion, 1938

And back to Buckle St

Stewart Maclennan was appointed the first director of the NationalGallery in 1947 while also Vice President of the Academy, with tact and charm he performed the extraordinary task of serving the two to their mutual advantage, however it probably didn’t help the public’s confusion around the identity of the Academy as separate from the National Gallery. This impression was further compounded by the common entrances and location on the same floor of the building, some Academy staff were provided by the National Gallery and the Academy galleries were also used for National Gallery exhibitions.

J C Richmond 'Ngatapa from the East' watercolour


National Gallery Exhibitions at the Academy

Apart from three craft exhibitions in the 1950’s the Academy’s only regular exhibitions were the Annual and the Autumn, it presented retrospective or memorial exhibitions for Roland Hipkins, Edith Collier, Maud Sherwood and once or twice a year lent its gallery for National Art Gallery exhibitions. Until 1967 the Academy was still collecting paintings and presenting them to the NationalGallery, eventually over 500 paintings in total were gifted.

W A Sutton in front of 'Homage to Frances Hodgkins', painted in 1949, this painting shows the Hodgkins work itself and some of the Christchurch champions of the artist. 



Out of Town Artists

The complications of packing and despatching work has always discouraged artists in other centres from exhibiting in Wellington. Strong and expensive packaging is not always a protection against damage, and a striking example is the fate of Bill Sutton’s‘Homage to Frances Hodgkins’ which he painted in 1949 as his protest in the controversy over the rejection of her picture, ‘The Pleasure Garden’ by the CSA and the Robert MacDougall Gallery in Christchurch. “I had it crated here by a local firm, and they despatched it to Wellington, and it must have gone via theChathams…it took weeks. It was on one of these coastal vessels, the Calm, Storm, Gale or what have you. When it was eventually unpacked in Wellington it had gone mouldy. The crate was made of green timber and there was no waterproofing whatever. The secretary sent me a telegram immediately telling me of it’s condition, so I instructed him to nail the lid down again send it back to me. I inspected it on arrival and it was just a hopeless mess, mushrooms, and the paint gone to ridges and fissures. Kept it lying about the studio for a couple of years then destroyed it…You can imagine my visit to the packing company here. They slammed in a bill and I went to see ‘em in one of my Irish tempers. Office girls fled and I threatened the manager with everything except hellfire, that’s the prerogative of the clergy”.

Fortunately courier systems have improved markedly in the intervening years and today we receive many entries from around the country, although Academy exhibitions are still dominated by artists from the Wellington region. The unpacking and packing of submissions is one of the larger tasks undertaken by our team of volunteers.

Rita Angus 'Still life with Plants' watercolour.


Rejection not always discouraging

Rita Angus began exhibiting at the Academy around 1932 and was an artist member from 1957 to 1964. She resigned when one of her paintings was rejected. The pattern of receiving, selecting and hanging an exhibition has scarcely changed for many years. The selection committee’s decisions have, and always will arouse discussion: in 1951 Dorothy Elizabeth Robertson's portrait ‘Brian’  was rejected by the Academy, and was then accepted by the Paris Salon. She went on to have 30 pieces accepted over 14 exhibitions at the Paris Salon and acceptances at the Royal Academy, Royal Scottish Academy and many other British galleries.  Never-the-less large numbers of works (sometimes as many as 700) were, and still are, submitted for exhibition and large crowds attend openings. In the 1950’s opening nights were extended to 10.30pm and guests were allowed to return to the gallery after supper in the Blue Room, the blue tiled art deco tearooms of the National Gallery.


view the Academy Exhibition Selection Policy

The Academy Galleries at Buckle St during the 50th Anniversary Exhibtion in 1938

The Grand affair of Member’s previews

Until the early 1970’s the evening Members Preview was a ceremonious affair and one of the highlights of the social calendar; women wore long gowns, jewellery and furs; the men tails, dinner jackets or dark suits and on vice regal occasions war medals and decorations! Distinguished guests of honour were met at the entrance steps and escorted to the Academy office, where they were introduced to the councillors and offered drinks, before proceeding upstairs to the gallery which was filled with up to 800 people seated on rows of wooden folding chairs. Not until formalities were completed were members allowed to purchase works of art. A feature of the opening nights at Buckle St was often the strong winds that buffeted one of the most exposed sites in the city and a number of people were blown off their feet.

Brent Wong 'Ranges and Clouds' Acrylic shown in the 1978 Spring Exhibition

Subscriptions finally raised after 65 years

Since 1889 members had been paying one guinea subscription, of which 10 shillings was for an art union ticket, and because it no longer covered costs, 65 years later in 1954 it was proposed to increase subscriptions to thirty shillings. A further increase from $20 to $30 was approved in 1981 (the dollar in 1981 had the same purchasing power as one shilling in 1954). At that time there were around 1400 members. For the last twenty five years the Academy has averaged around 1200 members and continues to maintain a very competitive subscription.

The 1964 'Sculpture, Pottery and Graphic Art Exhibition'

Sculpture, Pottery and Graphic Art

A move by Peter McIntyre, Roy Cowan, Robin Kay and Mervyn Taylor to expand Academy activities and give greater scope to media other than painting was met with some resistance among members including the president, W. S. Wauchop, but their persistence resulted in the 1962 exhibition Sculpture, Pottery and Graphic Art – the first of its kind. The exhibition was an outstanding success and was the first Academy exhibition to be televised. Although still a proportionally small part of Academy exhibitions, the craft section continues to be strong and represented by some of the country’s foremost craftspeople.

Academy Fellow  Doreen Blumhart'Slab Moulded Bottle' 1973 

Academy Competitions 

Competition Award exhibitions became a regular feature of the Academy’s programme through to the late 1980’s when the stock market crash of 1987 lead to the withdrawal of many corporate sponsorships. The Kelliher Art Prize was first held in the Auckland City Gallery in 1956 and thereafter was an annual event in the Academy Gallery until 1970. The National Bank Art Awards were held from 1958 -1980 and the Benson & Hedges Art Awards continued during the 1980’s.

The competitions were extremely popular with artists and the public alike and these exhibitions increased the number of exhibitions from one or two a year to up to ten, but they had some detractors within the Council and in the wider art world. The Kelliher was awarded for the best oil painting of a typical New Zealand landscape and had to be “a realistic natural representation”, a stipulation which excluded many of New Zealand’s leading painters. The National Bank awards were less exuberant than the Kellihers but promoted a wider range of artwork including murals and watercolours, there were also awards for portraits.

Rodger Harrison 'Morning Light, Tauherenikau Valley' 1968 oil

Notable Award winners

Stuart Maclennan won the watercolour contests so often that he was made a judge. Guy Ngan was the most frequent winner in the mural section, and Rodger Harrison won the Kelliher Prize three times, as well as the National Bank watercolour and mural awards and was the only winner of both the Kelliher and National Bank painting competitions in the same year, 1968. There was constant discussion whether the awards were restricting the variety of works submitted and moves were made to secure more contemporary (i.e modern) works.

Melvyn Day 'The Grand Piano' oil 1950. The acceptance of this work, one of the earliest examples of cubism in NZ shows the liberalism of the Academy selection policy, a practice still followed.

The question of Modern Art and Dealer Galleries

The need for new and changing art and ideas has always been, and continues to be, an issue for the Academy – to encourage more of the best artists to exhibit was inhibited somewhat by the increasing control of dealer galleries over established artists, which had appeared since the second world war. Elva Bett, a pioneer of dealer galleries in Wellington encouraged her pupils to submit to the Academy and she herself was an artist member. But this is not always the case with many artists contracted to their dealers, the Academy strives to work constructively with local dealer galleries especially.

Mervyn E Taylor 'Kauri Stump' watercolour. Shown in the 1959 Annual Exhibtion and presented to the National Art Gallery in 1960. Mervin Taylor was a guest artist in 2008.

Increasing Exhibitions

Full use of the gallery throughout the year was the most important development of the 1970s catering for painters, sculptors, print-makers, potters, photographers, weavers and a wide range of craftspeople, including guest artists many of whom would not otherwise have exhibited at the Academy. Exhibitions were held featuring John Drawbridge, Patrick Hanly, Melvyn Day, Ralph Hotere and Donald Peebles in 1969, and sculptors Jim Allen, Laurence Karasek, Terry Powell, Greer Twiss and Warren Viscoe in 1970. There were solo exhibitions by Evelyn Page, T. A. McCormack and Roy Cowan and an extraordinary Hundertwasser show in 1973 among others. William Sutton exhibited ten large paintings in 1978 ‘Te Tihi o Kahkura and Sky’ (the Citadel of the Rainbow God) based on the view of the Port Hills as seen from the artists home.

Guy Ngan 'Bronze Habitation No 80'

Increasing Salaries

The increased work load of exhibitions and education programs lead in 1981 to nine people drawing salaries and at the end of its first one hundred years the Academy was beginning to have a much more commercial focus. It became evident that councillors, acting in their spare time, could not be expected to provide the labour force for what had become a busy and professional gallery organisation. The Academy appointed a fulltime secretary, then a director and secretary. The council became a policy making body - the board of directors. This management structure is largely maintained today, with the support of two paid staff and a large team of volunteers, and owes a great deal to the guidance of Constance Kirkaldy, Brian Carmody and Guy Ngan.

Robin Kay, Academy Fellow

Celebrating 100 years and a vision achieved

In its first century around 4000 artists had exhibited with the Academy, many of them major figures in the history of fine art in New Zealand and the vision articulated at the first meeting in 1882 could be said to have been achieved.

The Academy celebrated its centenary with a celebration at Old St Pauls Cathedral which included a dramatisation of the first 100 years, A BP Art Award Centenary Exhibition in July 1983 and the publication of “A Portrait of a Century” a book by Robin Kay & Tony Eden, a fascinating and detailed account of the Academy’s first one hundred years (from which this history has been taken) a copy can be viewed in the Academy library.

The enormous contribution made by women to the Academy was celebrated with an exhibition held in two parts; Historical and Contemporary called 'Academy Women - a Century of Inspiration' and included works by all the major women artists of the Country.

Guy Ngan, Academy Director 1985

New Direction

The Academy took a new direction when Guy Ngan became its Director. About 1979 the Academy adopted the policy of exclusively promoting New Zealand artworks. Guy encouraged many businesses and Corporates to sponsor Art Awards. About 60% of the exhibition work sold was purchased for commercial premises. Each year the Academy handled on average 15 $1,000 Awards plus the Governor General Art Award. The Academy organized one exhibition each year in Association with the National Museum to display selected early Maori art, aiming to expose the aesthetic values of our indiginous art forms. By 1985 the development programme was established and the Academy was financially self supporting. Guy was awarded the OBE for services to the arts.

John Papas 'Xanthus' ceramic.Exhibited in the ICI Bursary exhibition 1982

Art Education

During the 1980s it was decided to provide a more practical role in art education, periodically art classes had been offered at the Academy, notably the Summer schools of 1963 - 65, but the galleries weren’t really adequate for the purpose and space was a problem. When the opportunity arose, in association with the Williams Trust, the Inverlochy Art School was established at Inverlochy House.

Inverlochy House, after the National Gallery, the second institution to come out of the NZAFA


Inverlochy House Art School established

A seven year lease at $1 per year from Inverlochy Trust set up by Sir Arthur Williams was signed in 1984. The house was designed by Alexander Turnbull and had been divided into 9 flats. It needed major renovations, repairs and repiling all to be financed by the Academy. By 1984 a management committee was set up and caretakers moved in. Later Wendy Thompson was employed to manage the school. Her office was set up in the NZAFA office. By 1992 when more classes were running she was able to set up office at Inverlochy House itself.

Nahleen Markham awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 2004 for her services to the Academy

1990 financial meltdown

The strain of refurbishing Inverlochy House on resources resulted in the two paid staff leaving at the end of 1990. The President, Tony Arthur, took over the running of the Academy on a volunteer basis with the support of existing volunteers. Nahleen Markham volunteered to sort the computer programming, soon worked in the office every day and later became the Office Manager.

Brian Carmody 'Islands of the Bay' watercolour. Brian Carmody is a life member, a former councillor and president.

Separating the Art School

After ten years running the Inverlochy Art School in Te Aro, and with the impending move from Buckle St also stretching Academy resources the Academy Council voted to separate the Art School from the auspices of the Academy in 1994. The Art school continues today as an independent organisation.

Although the Academy is no longer formally involved in Art education, the Academy continues to encourage participation in the arts at all levels, there are a number of Art tutors among the artist members and learning institutions are among the exhibitors in the galleries.

Shona McFarlane 'The Annual Meeting' acrylic 1968. Shona McFarlane was on the Academy Council for many years including as Vice President

Increasing Tensions

The growing National Gallery and Museum was creating an ever greater demand on space and the pressure was mounting on the Academy to give over more gallery rooms to the National Gallery. Since the early 1960s there had also been some disquiet that the Academy had too much influence over the National Gallery; by having the right to nominate seven members to the committee of management as per the 1936 agreement. Pressure was coming from Internal Affairs to separate the two administrations and as plans were drawn up for the National Gallery to move from Buckle Street

 to Te Papa, there were doubts whether the Academy could or should move with it.

Terry Stringer 'Two Views Table with Fallen Figure' polychrome bronze. Exhibited in the ICI Bursary Exhibition 1982

Going Solo

Solo exhibitions were always a problem to the Academy, with the council reluctant to be seen to favour particular members or artists. The Whitmore St years had seen some solo exhibitions and the Academy had mounted a number of retrospective shows most notably for Evelyn Page in 1970.

The sheer size of the galleries also made mounting a solo show a major difficulty. An innovation of 1988 was to invite 10 to 12 artists to simultaneously mount a solo exhibition and the ‘Going Solos’ were born. Each artist was given a section of wall space and the gallery was filled. With ‘Solo30’ approaching these have been an outstanding success with artists and the public alike.


see the latest Solo show here

The Historic Harbour Board Offices building at 1 Queens Wharf. The Academy's new home from 2000.

Finding our ‘Own Place’ again

When Te Papa Tongawera was designed no provision was made to accommodate the Academy of Fine Arts in its new building on the waterfront. Finally settlement of the deed in perpetuity with Te Papa Tongawera was negotiated and compensation of  $1.2  million was paid to the Academy which enabled us to look to the future and a new gallery back in the city.

take a gallery tour here

Philip Markham, served two terms as President and is a Fellow of the Academy

Intense Debate

This was a period of intense debate with a major divergence in members’ opinion regarding purchasing the Buckle St building or moving out. Members voted that the Academy should move back  downtown, but it emerged that there were five options available including Shed 13, the Queens Wharf offices or a return to Whitmore St on the old High Court site. Many heated discussions were had. A turbulent period of the Academy’s history ended with the members decision to move to 1 Queens Wharf, a site that was more central to the artistic, tourist and commercial heart of Wellington, but also gave us a more secure future in terms of the purchase agreement, refurbishment costs and now to actually own it's own property for 999 years. However the debate was very divisive and many long serving members left the Academy. The Academy president, Phillip Markham, showed considerable vision, negotiating skills and tireless energy through the process of separation from Te Papa Tongarewa and an independent Academy Gallery opening on the waterfront.

Volunteers Eric Kemys & Esda Thompson packing up

Into the bunker

Te Papa closed at Buckle St in 1996 but the Academy continued there until 1997, it quickly became apparent that the isolation and distance from the CBD showed the need for a return to the city. Once the settlement was reached the office, gallery and archives were moved out. There were 60 years of accumulation and many bins were filled. Te Papa arranged free storage in a World War II bunker inside the hill at Buckle St that was very damp. Designer and Artist Alison Blain offered space in her rooms in Grey St, a door was built and a small rent arranged for two years. It was large enough for the Council meeting table, office and storage of all the paper prints, valuable artworks and records in a safe dry environment.

Academy stalwarts Esda Thompson and Barbara Lewismanning the desk in temporary gallery space on the waterfront

Two years in the wilderness

The Academy purchased three unit titles at 1 Queens Wharf in October 1998. The move from the bunker was made all the more difficult when all the lighting fused and it had to be done by torchlight in the pitch darkness. There was a lot of water but fortunately nothing had been damaged. Everything was stored in the new space and later moved out again, during the fit-out, into free space in the old Herd St PO building. A severely reduced exhibition program was maintained in vacant offices on the waterfront and in 1999 four exhibitions were organised in the undeveloped space. A feature of the time was the sight of the gallery staff wheeling the office computer down Grey St across Jervois Quay to the wharf in order to receive and catalogue the exhibitions.

First Woman President

After 116 years, the Academy Council elected its first woman President when Life Member Patti Meads replaced Tony Eden in 1998. Considering the number of strong women that have graced the Academy over all those years, from Frances Hodgkins to Evelyn Page, Doreen Blumhart and Shona Macfarlane it is remarkable that it took so long. After a second term as President by Philip Markham the Academy elected Jenny Shearer as it's second woman President.

The new Award winning Academy Galleries

The Architects Herriot+Melhuish (HMA) were employed to design our spacious new Academy Galleries in the historic Harbour Board Offices building at 1 Queens Wharf. Capital Construction Ltd did the fit out. HMA won the 2000 NZ Institute of Architects, Wellington Region Award in the Commercial and Industrial category for the fit-out with the citation -

 "The challenge here was to pick up the positive features of a space left over from an apartment development. A cavernous interior was dominated by exposed service pipes and strengthening steel. These have been camouflaged  in simple fashion by the use of black paint. Dilapidated masonry has been featured as an antiquity, rather than repaired. The interior design has achieved gallery space that is flexible and functional, while the architectural elements of the building and its relationship with Queens Wharf is enhanced"

HMA also won the Resene Colour Award. 

Grand Opening

The new galleries were opened By the Governor General, the Rt Honourable Sir Michael Hardie Boys with the Grand Opening Exhibition on the 18th February 2000. At Buckle St there had been a $2 admission charge for non members but in order to encourage greater public participation it was decided to make admission free to the new galleries.

Academy Collection

New Millennium, new Collection

As a vision for the new Millennium, and an acknowledgment of the taditions of the past, the Council decided to put money aside from each exhibition towards the purchase of artworks for a new Academy collection. It was felt that given that no one was collecting works like those shown at the Academy it would eventually form a unique record of art in New Zealand and create a sizeable asset for the Academy.

Robyn Kahukiwa 'Whakapapa, life and death' oil on canvas

125 years On

In 2007 the Academy celebrated 125 years with a Gala Exhibition featuring guest artist Robyn Kahukiwa. Contemporary Maori art was further showcased with the Bloodlines exhibition featuring many multi media works.

Nigel Brown 'Beauty' oil 2005

Guest Artists

A policy of inviting senior artists to participate in Academy exhibitions was introduced and recent guest artists have included Robyn Kahukiwa, Nigel Brown, Mervyn Taylor and Barry Brickell. The World Press Photo Exhibition, brought to New Zealand for the first time in fifty years by the NZ Netherlands Society, was visited by 32,000 people in just three weeks. The Academy's Army connection continued with our own Captain Matt Gauldie featuring his 'Return of the Unknown Warrior' series in an exhibition of Army art in the Galleries. This was part of the celebrations associated with the unveiling of the Tomb Unknown Warrior Memorial at Buckle St, created by another Artist Member, Kingsley Baird. More...>

The Da Vinci Machines from the Artisans of Florence exhibition saw record crowds

Da Vinci Machines

The early years of the new millennium have seen the Academy consolidate its position on the waterfront and forge a unique place in the visual arts in Wellington. Most recently the Academy hosted the Da Vinci machines exhibition which was visited by over 29,000 people, including numerous school visits and featured events with a Da Vinci theme on the waterfront.

This exhibition presented over sixty models grouped in themes: War machines, Flying machines, Nautical & Hydraulic machines as well as devices illustrating the Principles of Mechanics. The interactive machines were a popular aspect of the exhibition as visitors could touch and handle these models to gain a first-hand appreciation of how they work.


 Free Entry for large crowds

Entry to our exhibitions is free, commission rates are some of the lowest in the country with submission of artworks open to all, and the galleries themselves are available to hire. With a full exhibition program the Galleries are open most weeks and an average of around 3,000 visitors see each of our exhibitions.

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Solo 44

5 May - 10 June 2018

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