With showers forecast and a few hours to spare, this afternoon I decided to head along to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The gallery is home to more than 15,000 pieces of art ranging in date from 1376 through to today, and the best thing entry is free.
I walked up High Street to Khartoum Place, the pedestrian friendly city square, between Lorne St and Kitchener St. I took the stairs up past the 2000 tiled mural and fountain celebrating the New Zealand’s women’s suffrage centenary to the main entrance.
It is worth taking a few moments to absorb the beauty of the exterior of the Auckland Art Gallery. The main gallery building built in French Renaissance style was completed in 1887. It is three storeys high, with a six storey clock tower.
The Art Gallery building originally also housed the Auckland Public Library and City Council offices before the Council offices moved following the construction of the Town Hall in 1911 and the public library moved to its Lorne Street premises in 1971.
Expansions have been built onto the original building several times. In 2007, the Gallery was closed for extensive renovations, and re-opened in September 2011. The building now impressively and seamlessly combines the modern and French Renaissance style architecture. The Auckland Art Gallery was awarded World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in October 2013.
Large kauri (native New Zealand tree) columns frame the entrance to the building. When you walk in a friendly guide is on hand to offer you a map and point you in the right direction. The gallery offers free one tours, which depart from here at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. On the left hand side of the foyer is the gift shop, turn to right to explore the New Zealand collection first. There is also access to the lower ground floor, which has an auditorium where screenings and artist or curator talks are held. There is also a classroom and meeting room facilities for hire.
The first three rooms on the ground floor explore different periods of art in the New Zealand collection: 1995 to today, 1980 to 1995, and 1965 to 1980. The next two rooms are currently dedicated to individual artists Tony Fomison and Lois White. The last and larger room includes abstract art, realism and nationalism, the cultural significance of the landscape, and the importance of travel and exchange in New Zealand art.
The mezzanine floor houses the international historic art collection, which includes works from the Medieval to the Victorian period. There is also a research library and children’s creative learning centre.
On level 1 is the international and New Zealand contemporary art collection. There is also the historic New Zealand art collection and tucked away in the back is the Māori portraits gallery, which is popular with many tourists who exclaim that it should feature more prominently. Level 1 also has space for temporary exhibitions. Currently (until March 2nd 2014) there is an exhibition entitled ‘Freedom Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas’, which explores ideas of utopia, sustainability and artistic freedom in contemporary art.
There is also a café on this floor. The café is open weekdays 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, and weekends 10 am to 4:30 pm. There is terrace entry to the café from the Albert Park side of the building for those wishing to visit the café before the gallery opens.
Level 2 (top level) has more contemporary New Zealand art. There is sculpture terrace, which looks out over Albert Park. There is also a Members lounge and an espresso bar on this level.
It easy to explore the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in a morning or afternoon and if the weather is nice be sure to take a stroll through Albert Park.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Open 10am – 5pm
Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
Entry to the Gallery is free. Although there may be charges for special exhibitions.