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Helen Clark Speech At Auckland Art Gallery

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Announcement of Funding for Auckland Art Gallery Redevelopment

Auckland Art Gallery Cnr Wellesley and Kitchener Streets, Auckland

6.10 pm

Thursday 6 March 2008

For me as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, it is always a pleasure to visit the Auckland Art Gallery. This evening I am especially pleased to be here to make a major announcement about funding for the Gallery’s redevelopment – a project which our government has been following closely for a number of years.

The Auckland Art Gallery is without doubt one of the most important cultural institutions in New Zealand. It was the first art gallery established in our country. It holds nationally and internationally important collections, including those of Governor Sir George Grey, the Partridge Collection of Lindauer Portraits, and the McCahon Family Collection.

Yet the Art Gallery’s collection of nearly 14,000 works of art is not its only cultural asset. Its historic buildings are Auckland landmarks. They represent a link with our city’s past in a rapidly changing urban landscape.

The buildings also reflect the changing needs and demands of our city’s premier art gallery Since 1887 they have been repeatedly altered and adapted to accommodate growing collections and increasing visitor numbers.

Alas, that will not do in the 21st century. Incremental change cannot deliver exhibition space fit for purpose, nor provide New Zealand’s queen city and its visitors the world class gallery we should aim to have here.

In recent years we know that some international exhibitions have not been able to come to the Gallery because of space constraints.

Only a small fraction of the nearly 14,000 items in the collection is able to be displayed at any one time.

The working conditions for gallery staff have become more and more difficult - they do work over seventeen levels of Gallery space !

The Auckland Art Gallery; its owner the Auckland City Council; and its friends have recognised that the time has come for a far reaching and visionary redevelopment which reflects the importance of the gallery and its role in our city’s and our country’s cultural and economic life.

As you know, the redevelopment aims to create New Zealand’s pre-eminent public art gallery. I believe it will enrich our cultural life, and also create a compelling visitor attraction, a gallery which is easier to operate, and the opportunity for the gallery to be more financially self sustaining. As well, essential remedial work will be done on the main gallery building which has a category one heritage listing.

Through the redevelopment,

floor space for exhibitions, public programmes, and events will increase by fifty per cent.

the gallery will have improved lighting and sound, and a more environmentally-friendly design.

more space will be dedicated to New Zealand art, giving visitors much greater access to our cultural treasures.

because of the increased space, more of the international collection will be able to be displayed too.

visitor numbers are predicted to rise from an average of around 200,000 per year, to nearer 450,000.

The total cost of the redevelopment is $96.4 million.

The Labour Government I lead is a strong supporter of our arts and cultural sector. We believe that high quality museums and galleries are essential community infrastructure. They provide a place for reflection on and information, dialogue, and debate about who we are and what our place is in the world. They are also important economic assets – indeed they are pivotal to what our cities, towns, and districts have to offer local and international visitors.

As a new Minister of Arts, Culture, and Heritage, I established the Regional Museums Policy for Capital Construction Projects, together with annual funding to back it, so that central government could consider in a coherent way whether it should become a funding partner in such projects.

The objective was to support such developments and redevelopments where there were nationally significant collections.

Under this policy we have supported major projects from Gore’s Eastern Southland Gallery to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

We will only become a funding partner in these projects if significant support can be secured from the local community and other backers.

In the case of the Auckland Art Gallery project, the Auckland City Council is stumping up around a third of the project cost, and the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation has undertaken to raise a similar amount - of which about half has already been raised. I thank all benefactors – from the ASB Community Trust to other trusts and individuals, families, and philanthropists for their generosity.

It has been clear to me and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for the last two years that the Auckland Art Gallery project was likely to meet our criteria for funding once obstacles to the redevelopment were cleared.

The Gallery’s collections are of national significance, and strong City Council and community support had been secured. The outstanding matter around the resource consent process has also now been dealt with.

I am well aware that, without a significant government contribution, it is unlikely that a project of this scale and quality could proceed.

Therefore I am announcing this evening that the government has formally agreed to become a funding partner in the art gallery redevelopment project.

Our contribution over four years will total $30 million, exclusive of GST. This funding allows the redevelopment to proceed with certainty.

The result will be a world class art gallery, able to exhibit to high standards and combining heritage conservation with exciting contemporary architecture.

I have no doubt that the redeveloped gallery will be a major cultural and economic asset for Auckland and New Zealand, and I am proud that our government has been able to support it in this way.

I wish the Gallery all the best for the redevelopment and look forward to the re-opening in 2010.


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