Teaming up with Te Papa

By Lindy Laird

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Friedensreich Hundertwasser might be giggling in his grave at the irony of New Zealand's national museum storing some of its irreplaceable collection in a building with his name on it in Whangarei.

The design the late architect submitted in the 1990s for the then proposed Te Papa Tongarewa national museum building in Wellington was rejected; as was a sketch of a similar design he offered to the Whangarei District Council in 1993 to transform the former regional council building at the Town Basin into an art museum.

Now it is likely part of the national art collection in Te Papa's keeping will end up in Whangarei in the building based on his own design anyway.

Whangarei Art Museum director Scott Pothan said the board and others involved in developing the Hundertwasser Art Centre have been in discussions with Te Papa for some time about forming "strategic alignments".

"Michael Houlihan (Te Papa chief executive) is very supportive of the Hundertwasser development and some of the Te Papa art collection, including Hundertwasser material, coming to Whangarei," Mr Pothan said.

Te Papa's development unit has already played a role in scoping studies for the building.

Mr Houlihan and other senior staff will visit Whangarei again soon to discuss further alliances, Mr Pothan said.

A branded relationship with Te Papa would raise the Hundertwasser Art Centre profile even higher internationally, he said.

"Te Papa is raved about at an international level as being a leader in museology. It's brand recognition is up there with the best in New Zealand."

The sketch that Hundertwasser, who died in 2000, reputedly drew up on a scrap of paper forms the basis of the $13-plus million transformation of the Town Basin site. The full architecturural plans have been provided by the Hundertwasser Foundation in Austria.

It will be the only Hundertwasser gallery outside Vienna's Kunsthauswien exhibiting the artist's work.

In approving the project, the Hundertwasser Foundation has asked that the building include a Maori exhibition space as well.

Te Papa's collection and the viability of sharing it around museums in other centres was a topic on the Campbell Live television show last week.

Te Papa has denied it is looking at a specific location for part of its 200,000 piece collection but said its 10 year strategy includes safe storage solutions.

"Te Papa has a responsibility to ensure that all risks to its collections are minimised. We are currently exploring a range of long term storage solutions to ensure that collections are safe in the event of a natural disaster like an earthquake.

"Te Papa has made no decision yet on where that might be," Mr Houlihan said.

"Any decision will take account of our [commitment] to providing national access to the national collection through a variety of solutions."

Mr Pothan said he is confident Whangarei will be part of that solution.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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