Auckland Council 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 made the decision to move 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.
Hutt City Council had the third-fewest items on public display.
It owns 3181 pieces, valued at $13m, but the public sees only about 1 per cent.
Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said he was surprised so little art was on display.
He recently established an arts and culture committee, comprising councillors and members of the art community. It would address the issue of public display, he said.
Wellington City Council has moved its most expensive piece, Charles Barraud’s portrait of Te Puni, to the council’s public foyer for all to see.