WALLACE Sir James
His vast art collection is well-settled into its new home and part of his meat business has been sold. But the septuagenarian Sir James Wallace is hardly putting his feet up.
Indeed, the opening of the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, which houses more than 5000 of his contemporary art pieces, has come at a price – to Sir James himself. When the centre in Auckland’s Pah Homestead opened, the target number of visitors was put at 15,000 visitors in the first year, building to 25,000 in the third. After just 20 months of operation, the venue has received 217,000 visitors. But with admission by koha – and averaging between 10c and 15c a head – that’s significantly below expectations. “It’s ironic,” says Sir James. “I’m personally making up the deficit.”
His remaining business, The Wallace Corporation, has been capitalising and expanding in a big way and Sir James is still closely involved. He also maintains a close association with a large number of charitable organisations.
It is here that he holds some concerns for the future. Sir James – who funds the annual eponymous arts awards – calls it “the loss of philanthropy.” Some new young members of the wealthy set are not supporting the arts, he says.
“Many are much richer than we were at their age – they have absolutely exorbitant salaries – but they seem to be ploughing it back into themselves, rather than society.”
Failure to do so, he says: “is to the detriment of arts organisations struggling for funds, and therefore the health of the cultural side of life – which is fundamental to the health of the country and community.”
He and others of his ilk have vowed to try to get the new generation to follow in their footsteps.
And if they don’t? “Certainly, in some situations, some arts organisations would have to reduce their activities. It’s not as if the government or local bodies are increasing their funding – far from it.”