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New visitor attraction planned for Christchurch

New visitor attraction planned for Christchurch’s Cultural Precinct

Canterbury Museum and the Ravenscar Trust today unveiled plans for New Zealand’s first contemporary house museum to display the Trust’s collections of New Zealand arts, sculpture, designer furniture and classical antiquities.

Canterbury Museum will own the Ravenscar House Museum and operate it jointly with the Trust. Christchurch City Council, which owns the preferred site at 52 Rolleston Avenue, will consult the community on whether to gift the land to the Museum in perpetuity.

Jim and Dr Susan Wakefield, who co-chair the Ravenscar Trust, began collecting art in the early 1990s. Their Collections were previously housed in a Trust-owned residence in Scarborough which was extensively damaged in the earthquakes. The Trust will use a combination of its own funds and its earthquake insurance settlement with IAG to build the $13 million development.

Dr Susan Wakefield says that the couple had always envisaged that they would gift their Scarborough house and the Ravenscar Collections to the people of Christchurch, but the earthquakes forced a change of plan.

“We think the Rolleston Avenue site is the best available in central Christchurch for our house museum concept. The design, by award-winning architect Andrew Patterson, together with the scale and landscaping of the building are sympathetic to the surrounding two and three-storey heritage buildings,” says Dr Wakefield.

Museum Director, Anthony Wright says that the Wakefields’ extraordinary generosity will create a development of national significance which will enrich the cultural life of the city and complement other visitor attractions in the Cultural Precinct.

“This is a tremendously exciting new development for Canterbury Museum. We have a strong design theme in our collections and programming, and we’ll benefit from having a purpose-built facility in which to exhibit and promote these in the future. The new building will also enhance and complement any future development of parts of the Museum’s current site,” he says.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says she is thrilled by the generosity of the Ravenscar Trust. “It really is a very special gesture. The Wakefields lost their home in the earthquakes and are opting to replace it in a way that will be of enormous benefit to the city. The Council will make a final decision on gifting the land, currently used as a car park, once we have received feedback from residents and other interested parties.”

The Ravenscar Collections of about 300 paintings and objects are regarded as one of the country’s most important private collections. They feature significant paintings by leading artists such as Frances Hodgkins, Rita Angus and Colin McCahon.

The Trust will retain ownership of the Ravenscar Collections. The house museum will be largely self-financing through ticketed entry, car parking revenue and other income. The Museum will support the operation of the house museum from its existing staff and resources. It is expected to create nine new jobs.

Public consultation on the Council’s proposal to gift the land to Canterbury Museum runs from Thursday, 17 September until midday Monday, 19 October 2015. The Trust’s decision to proceed with the house museum is subject to the outcome of the consultation, obtaining resource consent and confirmation of project costs. Construction is expected to start in 2016 with the building opening to the public in 2018.


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