Until Te Papa finally gets its art together and shows the national art collection it has had tucked away in the 20 years since it opened, Auckland Art Gallery will remain the national art gallery: wonderful buildings, popular travelling exhibitions, great showcase for historical and contemporary New Zealand art, great location, stimulating education programme, visitor numbers exceeding budgeted targets and all the intangible benefits art brings with it.

So how has it annoyed Auckland's elected representatives to the point the council wants to starve it to death?

It is estimated the gallery gets 25 per cent less money from council than it did five years ago.

It is not performing optimally: parts are unused, overseas exhibitions are being allowed to pass us by, key staff have decamped overseas or — worse — to Wellington. Some friends of the gallery have set up Save Our Gallery to agitate for increased council funding and generally make a noise about the problem.


They might want to have another look at their tone, however. "Hey Auckland" their website shouts out, as they would no doubt put it.

They have a "neat little folder" with "bits and bobs" you can use to make your feelings felt.
It's important pre-schoolers be exposed to art, but I'm not sure they should be put in charge of the comms for saving an art gallery.

Of course, council has more claims on its resources than one art gallery.

There are complicated mechanisms for deciding who gets how much of the loot, but the result is Auckland Museum gets $30.7 million from the council this year, Motat about $15.2m and Auckland Art Gallery $6.9m.

The museum is a noble thing. For overseas and local visitors alike it provides a fine overview of and introduction to our bicultural traditions, history and place in our part of the world. But Motat? Really?

With the best will in the world — and all those volunteers who keep the rusty wheels at Motat turning as much as they do are the epitome of goodwill — the place is a tumble-down barely functioning disaster.

Shouldn't we have some sort of fund set up to ensure overseas visitors don't find out about it? For it to get more money than a world-standard art gallery is ridiculous and wrong.

Speaking of world standards, in a separate but related issue, overseas visitors are now being charged admission to the Auckland Art Gallery.


Fair enough, too. Aucklanders already work several hours per annum earning the money to pay for infrastructure for the rest of the country. For years we have been expected to subsidise tourists' cultural enrichment as well.

Not many countries in the world let you into their galleries for nix. Free galleries and museums are rare indeed. Paris has one, devoted to the history of the city. However, with exquisite Gallic passive aggression all its signage is in French, so you can't have your gateau and eat it.

More typical are institutions that include free entry for locals all the time and free entry for all some of the time but never free entry for all, all of the time.

They are also nearly all closed at least one day a week so staff can get on with their work — an option local doomsayers would say marks the beginning of the art-pocalypse.