Major international artworks gift for Auckland
08 May 2009
Billionaire New Zealand luxury lodge owners Julian and Josie Robertson have gifted NZ$115 million of major international artworks to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
The largest gift ever made to an art museum in Australasia, the collection of 15 art works includes well known paintings by Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian.
The Robertsons - New York-based art collectors and philanthropists - are the owners of two top New Zealand luxury lodges: Kauri Cliffs (Northland), and Cape Kidnappers (Hawkes Bay).
Major European artists
The collection, representing some of the major European artists of the modern era, dating from late 19th to mid 20th centuries, comes from a private collection that focuses on modernist works.
Its art historical and cultural value places it among the most generous philanthropic acts in New Zealand history.
Gallery director Chris Saines, who selected the collection, said it was a "truly astonishing gift". Currently the gallery’s collection is insured at NZ$320 million.
It is the first time the Robertsons have gifted work, though they have frequently loaned pieces from their collection.
The collection will remain with the Robertsons over their lifetimes, but works will be brought to Auckland for short-term loans on a rotating basis until eventually becoming a permanent part of its collection.
It was hoped that all 15 works would be in Auckland for a month to coincide with the April 2011 opening of the developed gallery, Mr Saines said.
In 2006, the Auckland Art Gallery organised an exhibition of 12 works from the Julian and Josie Robertson collection, which was also shown at the national museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.
Six of the works shown in the 2006 exhibition are included in the gift.
An overwhelming response to the first exhibition - 30,000 visitors over 30 days - impressed the Robertsons.
The couple, who’ve had a long-standing relationship with New Zealand, say they want New Zealanders to enjoy works of art of a kind usually only experienced in this number through travelling to major museums in Europe and the United States.
Life-long love affair
This gift enables the Robertsons to give something meaningful back to a country they love.
"We have had a lifelong love affair with New Zealand. We love Auckland. And we love these pictures. That’s why we were so pleased when we brought these works to New Zealand that New Zealanders seemed to enjoy them as much as we do," they said.
"Frankly, bringing the pictures was probably the most appreciated thing we have ever done. We are delighted to be able to make this gift."
"You fall in love with these pictures a little bit and you want to be sure they will be left with somebody who loves them and that [exhibition] made us realise that they would be loved ... We are really very happy that those pictures are going to be in Auckland for the rest of their time on Earth."
Auckland mayor John Banks described the collection as "an extraordinarily precious gift to the people of Auckland. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this collection to our city."
Julian and Josie Robertson Collection
The art, to be known as the ‘Julian and Josie Robertson Collection’, dates from 1875 - 1951 and includes works by Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Salvador Dali, Georges Braque, Andre Derain, Fernand Leger, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Fantin-Latour.
The two oil paintings by Picasso include one of his most famous Cubist portraits of his mistress Dora Maar, Femme a la resille (1938), and a family study, Mere aux enfants a l'orange (1951), featuring his children Claude and Paloma.
The collection represents many of the major artists who attended the birth of modernism.
Auckland Art Gallery refurbishment
The gift comes at an important time for the Auckland City Gallery as it undertakes the development of a world-class building, due to open in April 2011.
The ambitious $113 million heritage refurbishment and expansion will more than double the scale of the previous visitor experience.
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