Ratepayers art gathering dust
New Zealand ratepayers own half a billion dollars worth of art, but only a token amount is on public display.
Local government figures show councils and councilcontrolled organisations own artwork worth at least $568,393,020, made up of at least 173,269 pieces, but only about 7 per cent is on show.
Auckland Council has the most valuable collection, making up almost half of the country’s collection at $276,981,903.
The most valuable pieces include Richard Deacon’s Nobody Here But Us sculpture, owned by Auckland Council, valued at $2.5m, and Ralph Hotere’s Founders Theatre mural, owned by Hamilton City Council, valued at $2.2m.
Whakatane District Council has a tauihu, or waka figurehead, valued at $1.4m; Millennium Wall, owned by Gisborne District Council, is valued at $729,304; and Maori Before a Waterfall by William Hodges, owned by Invercargill City Council, is valued at $900,000.
The figures were obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union, which found many of the most expensive items were in mayoral offices, or collecting dust in storage.
Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams said much of the artwork had been donated or bequeathed to local authorities for the public to enjoy.
‘‘But that’s not happening. In addition, many larger councils designate an amount to be spent each year on new artwork, despite only a tiny fraction of their existing collections being accessible to the public.’’
After the information was requested, Wellington City Council moved its most expensive piece, Portrait of Te Puni – with an insurance value of $650,000 – to its public foyer for all to see.
Williams hoped the research would compel other councils to follow suit.
Not all councils provided a list of their art, while others refused to provide the value of the most expensive items, on the basis that it might encourage theft or crime.