Sarjeant Gallery Whanganui | 90 YEARS, 90 WORKS – Celebrating the Gallery’s 90th Anniversary
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90 YEARS, 90 WORKS – Celebrating the Gallery’s 90th Anniversary

Colin McCahon, Portrait of Gordon H. Brown, 1968

90 YEARS, 90 WORKS – Celebrating the Gallery’s 90th Anniversary

1 December – 14 February 2010

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Sarjeant Gallery opening. Without the generous bequest of Henry Sarjeant, who died in 1912, Wanganui would not have such a fine public gallery or such a rich and diverse collection, which now numbers more than 8,000 items. The gallery’s collection began some 18 years prior to the gallery opening in 1919, when Henry and his wife Ellen Stewart – founding members of the Wanganui Arts and Crafts Society, an organisation established in 1901 – began acquiring works of art for a future gallery. Sarjeant stated in his will . . .

It is my desire that works of art shall be purchased or acquired on account of their intrinsic value as works of High Art only and not because they are specimens of local or colonial art, so that the said gallery shall be furnished with Works of the Highest Art in all its branches as a means of inspiration for ourselves and those who come after us.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Sarjeant Gallery opening. Without the generous bequest of Henry Sarjeant, who died in 1912, Whanganui would not have such a fine public gallery or such a rich and diverse collection, which now numbers more than 8,000 items. The gallery’s collection began some 18 years prior to the gallery opening in 1919, when Henry and his wife Ellen Stewart – founding members of the Wanganui Arts and Crafts Society, an organisation established in 1901 – began acquiring works of art for a future gallery. Sarjeant stated in his will . . .

It is my desire that works of art shall be purchased or acquired on account of their intrinsic value as works of High Art only and not because they are specimens of local or colonial art, so that the said gallery shall be furnished with Works of the Highest Art in all its branches as a means of inspiration for ourselves and those who come after us.

Over the last ninety years, the gallery has acquired a rich and diverse range of works, ranging from 16th Century European works to contemporary New Zealand photography. The collection has been amassed through many generous gifts, acquisitions and works placed on loan to the gallery, all of them telling a multiplicity of stories, individually and collectively.

In 2009, how do we reflect the diversity of the Sarjeant’s collection on its 90th anniversary? One way to do that would have been to deliver an exhibition of ninety works in chronological order, but with nearly a century’s worth of record keeping, finding a work from every year from 1919 to 2009 wouldn’t have been an easy task, and, for that matter, neither would it be a true reflection of the diversity of the collection.

The Sarjeant Gallery has a full-time staff of nine, and although we all have very specific roles within the gallery’s operation, in essence we are all custodians of the gallery and its collection. Collectively, the current staff have 116 years of institutional experience. During our time at the gallery, we have all handled, walked past, frequently re-visited many familiar friends and found new ones in new acquisitions or discovered others – concealed in racks and plan drawers, awaiting their time on the gallery wall. What better way then to celebrate the collection than to invite each of the nine full-time staff to select 10 works from the collection on a theme of their choice. The resulting exhibition, on display in two areas of the gallery, is a diverse one, which includes the first work acquired for the gallery and the most recent, acquired in the last month. Whether you are a frequent visitor to the gallery or visiting from further afield, we hope you enjoy this varied and eclectic show and join with the staff in saying thank you to Henry Sarjeant for having the vision to make this place possible.

Greg Donson
Curator/Public Programmes Manager

Category
Past Exhibitions 2009