Auckland’s place as the visual arts capital of New Zealand got a big boost this week with the announcement of a gift of fifteen major artworks presented to the Auckland Art Gallery by the New Zealand resident American philanthropists Julian and Josie Robertson.
The works include significant paintings by Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian dating from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. The total value of the works is between $200million and $250million and is the most significant collection gifted to any New Zealand public gallery
Several of the works have been previously seen in exhibitions at the Auckland Art Gallery and Te Papa. Six of those works are included in the gift.
Julian and Josie Robertson have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with this country and want New Zealanders to enjoy works of art of a kind usually only experienced in this number through travelling to the major museums of Europe and the United States.
The Robertson’s said, “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. Frankly, bringing the pictures was probably the most appreciated thing we have ever done. We are delighted to be able to make this gift."
Mayor of Auckland City, John Banks who last month revealed that Auckland City would be supporting a new contemporary art gallery at the Pah Homestead which will house the Wallace collection said of the Robertson collection, “This is an extraordinarily precious gift to the people of Auckland. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this collection to our city and to Aucklanders who have previously had to travel overseas to see art of this calibre.”
“Now, visitors will be travelling to Auckland to witness a collection of a size and importance of international quality. The city will honour and cherish this collection in perpetuity, displaying it for thousands of visitors each year in our magnificent refurbished Art Gallery.”
This gift will broaden out the gallery’s collections of European art and give them a depth and a set of pictorial reference points that will immediately work to make more sense of the development of modern and contemporary art in New Zealand. Auckland’s European modern collection will stand against the finest in the region.
This group of 12 paintings and three works on paper represents some of the defining art movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; post-impressionism, fauvism, cubism, surrealism and abstraction. Comparatively few works of this kind and quality can be found in the major public collections in New Zealand or Australia.
Central to the collection is a work of 1875-76 by Paul Cézanne, the father of modern art, and an early (1911) analytic and a late (1938) synthetic cubist work by Georges Braque
Pablo Picasso, co-founder of cubism with Braque, is represented by a surrealist-inspired study (1938) of Dora Maar together with a group portrait (1951) of a later lover François Gilot and their two children Claude and Paloma.
The collection also includes an important Salvador Dalí (1933-34) epitomizing the surrealist spirit.
The great colourist and draughtsman Henri Matisse is represented by three works; a decoratively elegant study of a young model in Spanish costume, painted in Nice (1921); the 24 pochoir sheet Jazz series (1947), arguably the world’s most recognized artist’s book; and a gouache-painted paper cut-out (ca 1949-50).
Other works include an early impressionist-inspired landscape (1884) by Paul Gauguin, a coastal landscape (1906) painted in a riot of primary colour by André Derain, one of the Fauve group; and a Henri Fantin-Latour still-life (1875).
The remaining paintings include a small and rare study in gouache on paper (ca 1920) by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, a work in which geometric abstraction takes its purest form; an intimately scaled still-life (ca 1930) by Pierre Bonnard; and a late cubist work by Fernand Léger (1918), a ’mechanical’ picture for a new machine age.
Philanthropy has been at the heart of the Robertson’s commitment to the communities in which they have lived and worked. They have provided support for an array of charitable entities through their individual giving, as well as through the Robertson Foundation and other affiliated foundations.
Julian Robertson is a leading New York investor who came to prominence in the business world as one of the most successful and dominant figures in the United States financial market from 1980 when he co-founded Tiger Management L.L.C., which eventually became the world’s largest hedge fund.
He serves on a number of organisation and university boards. He is founder and benefactor of the Robertson Scholars Program and is a supporter of the North Carolina Museum of Art as well asserving on the Executive Committee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
He is is currently on the Board of Trustees of a number of environmental and conservation organisations and is a staunch supporter in the campaign to stop global warming and actively supports marine conservation.
Together with Josie Robertson and their family, Julian Robertson has in some ways pursued a ‘second career’ in New Zealand, developing two world-class golf resorts and lodges and pursuing a determination to increase the profile of New Zealand wine in the US market. They own the iconic Te Awa and Dry River wineries.
Their golf courses, Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Cape Kidnappers in the Hawke’s Bay, are ranked consistently among the best in the world. In 2008, both played host to the inaugural Kiwi Challenge, a match between four major golfers playing for a large purse, broadcast live to an international audience.
The Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers lodges feature modern and contemporary New Zealand paintings, while the resorts themselves reflect the Robertson’s interest in growing New Zealand’s tourism and sporting infrastructure and bringing its outstanding natural environment and wine industry to the world’s attention.
The Robertson gift builds on a history of private philanthropy of a kind that led directly to the establishment of the Auckland Art Gallery in 1888, and which in the present day, through the gallery’s Foundation, is materially contributing to its expansion and development.
From the founding 19th century legacies of Sir George Grey and James Mackelvie, to major benefactors of the 20th century such as Moss Davis, Philip Edmiston and Colin McCahon and the McCahon family, to contemporary donors Jenny Gibbs and Alan Gibbs, and the Mackelvie, Chartwell and Thanksgiving Trusts, the gallery has long relied on generous individuals.
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