The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui has been an institution of national importance since its opening in 1919. It is one of New Zealand’s most important heritage buildings but it is earthquake-prone, rated at only 5% of the current New Building Standard. The Gallery’s art collection is also of national importance, with some 8,000 works ranging from 16th Century European pieces to modern New Zealand art works, all in the care of Sarjeant Gallery staff.
The works in this small selection from the Sarjeant collection showcase the way the Gallery’s Neo-Classical architecture, designed by Donald Hosie in 1917, has inspired many different artists during its near century-long existence. It is particularly timely as we close in on our funding target for the proposed $34.9 million redevelopment of our Gallery in Queens Park.
Photographers have been attracted to the elegant exterior of the building since it was officially opened in 1919. Frank Denton took an iconic image of the building through trees in 1926. Sixty years later, Laurence Aberhart found similar interest in the Gallery’s relationship with nearby foliage and shadow when he took multiple photographs of the building during his time as artist-in-residence at the inaugural Tylee Cottage artist residency in 1986.
The Gallery has also attracted the attention of many painters, including Peter Ireland, Craig Collier, Arthur Barnes and Nigel Brown. The latter’s 1993 depiction of the Sarjeant, containing the inscription ‘A moment preserved for a moment under the dome of eternity’, was generously gifted to the Gallery by Nigel and his partner in 2002. Matt Pine’s “replica” model in cast aluminium highlights the building’s cruciform design (a style usually reserved for churches), containing four galleries branching off a central space capped with a hemispherical dome. Rodney Fumpston’s print flattens the building to colour and line on the page, but it is still recognisable as our iconic building.
When the redeveloped Sarjeant Gallery building reopens it is our hope the architecture will continue to inform and inspire new generations of artists for many years to come.
For information on how to support the Sarjeant Gallery Redevelopment Project visit: www.sarjeant.org.nz/join-us/