A project which seeks to transform Waikanae's Mahara Gallery to bring it up to professional gallery standard and enable it to accept the gift of the Field Collection has received a major boost following private donations totalling $200,000.

Mahara Gallery Trust Board chairman Professor Les Holborow said an anonymous local donor had offered a $100,000 donation.

This combines with his own recent donation of $100,000 to significantly advance the gallery's fundraising for the $5.2 million project.

"It is a generous donation for which we are extremely grateful.

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"It is an expression of confidence in the project and, in partnership with Kāpiti Coast District Council and the Field Collection Trust, our ability to make it a reality."

A design by leading firm Athfield Architects has already been approved and a resource consent granted which will create a modern, fit-for-purpose district art gallery to replace the current building which was originally the Waikanae library.

"The design doubles the number of galleries in the building and triples the effective exhibition space.

"It also creates space for the community to use the gallery and be involved in our public programmes.

"One of the new building's features will be a dedicated storage area and exhibition space for the Field Collection.

"This will enable us to accept the gift to the gallery of the collection of 44 artworks and associated documents, 24 of them paintings by Frances Hodgkins, New Zealand's most celebrated expatriate painter.

An artist's impression of what part of the Field Collection could look like.
An artist's impression of what part of the Field Collection could look like.

The offer has significant implications for the Kāpiti district, Professor Holborow said.

"We would have the fourth largest collection of Hodgkins' works in public ownership in New Zealand and the most significant outside Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

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"Apart from its cultural significance, it would create a valuable visitor attraction for Kāpiti and provide a welcome boost to the Waikanae economy.

"But to accept it, we must have a gallery and storage facilities that meet accepted international standards."

Council and the Waikanae Community Board have agreed to fund one-third of the cost, provided the gallery trust board raises the remaining money.

"Projects which involve the upgrade of regional arts-related facilities and the retention and preservation of significant art collections, often receive significant funding from Crown and Crown-related sources.

"We currently have applications lodged with agencies which, if successful, will bring us close to our target and enable us to advance to the construction stage.

"We are also conscious that one of the side-effects of the Covid-19 crisis has been to create a desire for near-ready projects to be accelerated.

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"In our view, the gallery redevelopment is an ideal project for rapid implementation."