An academic has been appointed director of the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Victoria University assistant vice-chancellor (academic) Jenny Harper, 56, will take up the position on October 9.

Ms Harper's appointment to replace Tony Preston as head of the $50 million three-year-old gallery was announced yesterday after a three-month search.

She has an extensive art-based career, including a term as director of the National Art Gallery in Wellington in 1990, and was part of the planning team for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and director of art and history at Te Papa in 1992.

Christchurch City Council community services manager Stephen McArthur said with hands-on gallery curatorial experience, industry knowledge, leadership and gallery management skills, Ms Harper was well qualified for her new role.