Linda Herrick is the Arts and Books Editor at the NZ Herald.

Knight worries about art funding

James Wallace. Photo / Otago Daily Times
James Wallace. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Auckland arts patron James Wallace, who has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is worried about financial support for the arts by upcoming generations of wealthy professionals.

While he was pleased and honoured to be made a knight, he hopes it is a bit of a wake-up call.

"I hope it encourages others to support the arts in particular, especially financially," said Sir James. "Some of my generation have supported the arts so well but you look at the back of any of the programmes for theatre, opera, ballet - basically it's the same group of people and we are all getting older.

"We don't seem to be succeeded by new generations and yet many professionals and business people are very wealthy. They don't seem to be following the example and it is a worry.

"I see them attending arts events ... but I certainly think they are not into philanthropy. They are immersed in their own lives and their own wealth."

Sir James, who has collected contemporary New Zealand art since the 1960s, established a charitable trust in 1992 to administer his collection - estimated at more than 5000 works - which has been available for public viewing as revolving exhibitions.

The trust also runs annual awards worth more than $160,000 for emerging artists and international residencies, along with patronages, including the Auckland Writers Festival, the Auckland Philharmonia, the Auckland Theatre Company, Friends of the Civic, the McCahon House Trust and NBR NZ Opera.

Last year, the Wallace Arts Trust and Collection moved to a new permanent home in the restored historic Pah Homestead in Hillsborough.

"In eight months, we had 100,000 visitors," said Sir James. "One of the nicest things about the story was that a Samoan girl who had been here with a school party a week or so before, brought her family back here with her.

"Now that family would never have gone to see contemporary New Zealand art. It's so important to reach out into the community.

"There is the art, of course, but there is the beautifully restored house, the grounds, the great park hardly anyone knew about ... To have people coming in from all over Auckland and other parts of the country means we are exposing people to contemporary New Zealand art who might otherwise have not been aware of it."

- NZ Herald

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