Victoria University students past and present should consider the art hanging on the walls of the university as being theirs to enjoy, inspire and educate. That was definitely the reaction of a group of about 30 members of Friends of Te Papa who recently visited the Rutherford House art collection under the guidance of Adam Art Gallery director, Tina Barton. The Adam Art Gallery administers the university’s extensive art collection. Ms Barton said it had been built up since 1947 for the benefit of staff and students. Money for purchases came from a separate trust fund that was not at the expense of student expenditure. She paid tribute to the vision and foresight of former Victoria University Chancellor, Professor Tim Beaglehole who had almost singlehandedly built up the collection.

Perhaps his largest and most ambitious purchase, Gate III by Colin McCahon hangs in the foyer of Rutherford House. Students had been adamant that they did not want the work hidden away in an art gallery. Ms Barton said it was highly appropriate that it was at the heart of the building which is close to Parliament, the Railway Station and the city centre. Rutherford House, was once the headquarters of the New Zealand Electricity Department but is now part of Victoria’s Pipitea Campus. Ms Barton said most of the art was displayed in working spaces and regular checks were undertaken to ensure the works were safe and not blocked by other items.  The Vice-Chancellor was the only staff member allowed to have some of the collection in his office. Friends of Te Papa were given a “sneaky peak” into this office to see works by artist Richard Killeen and photographer Peter Peryer.

Other artists featured in the Rutherford House Art Collection, and viewed on the Friends tour, included Ava Seymour, Robyn Kahukiwa and Sandy Adsett. Ms Barton said the collection featured New Zealand art that was bought largely on the primary art market close to the time it was produced.

Anabright Hay
Friend of Te Papa

Feature image: left to right  Kathleen Willis, Anabright Hay, Beverley Eriksen, Tina Barton, Director, Adam Art Gallery, and Sophie Thorn, Collections Manager, Adam Art Gallery