Museum man dies after fight with cancer

Rodney Wilson a central figure in art circles who helped transform an Auckland institution.

Rodney Wilson. Photo / Nicola Topping
Rodney Wilson. Photo / Nicola Topping

One of New Zealand's cultural icons, Rodney Wilson, has died, aged 67.

Dr Wilson was a former director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Auckland Art Gallery, founding director of the Voyager Maritime Museum and an arts administrator and activist.

He died peacefully at his Mt Wellington home on Saturday after a battle with prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife Maureen, sons Marc and Leon and stepsons Jeremy and Tim.

Dr Wilson had been a stalwart of the cultural sector for 40 years.

Once known for his colourful bow ties, he was named the greatest living Aucklander in a survey in The Aucklander in 2010.

As director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum for 13 years, he helped transform it into an institution of international standing, pushing through its $115 million expansion.

He was central to book, art and architectural awards and helped establish an art gallery in a former Takapuna library.

Dr Wilson was the Arts Foundation governor from 2002 to 2010.

In a statement, the foundation said Dr Wilson was "an excellent advocate for the visual arts".

"Rodney provided a confident voice for architecture, furniture design and sculpture at selection meetings. We will miss Rodney's advice, his warm smile and laughter."

In 2011, a celebration of his achievements was held in Auckland.

Artist John Coley said at the time: "Rodney has been a most remarkable, sometimes controversial figure in our country's museum history. He has been a visionary, passionate and highly effective leader."

A death notice for Dr Wilson thanked the teams at the Auckland City Hospital oncology ward and Mercy Hospice, as well as his doctors.

"A gathering of Rodney's friends and family will farewell Rodney to the great immensity," the notice said.

- NZ Herald

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