The Sarjeant Gallery celebrated its centenary with a celebration on the very steps where Prime Minister William Massey first declared the gallery open on September 6, 1919.
Gentleman farmer Henry Sarjeant had bequeathed the sum of £30,000 ($70 million in today's money) for the Wanganui Borough Council to build and maintain an art gallery at Pukenamu Queen's Park "as a means of inspiration for ourselves and those who come after us".
Liz Wylie tells the story of the first hundred years of the Sarjeant.
Sarjeant's generous and altruistic bequest could not have come to fruition without the efforts of his wife Ellen, her second husband John Neame and mayor Charles Mackay.
The Neames, with funds made available by the council, travelled to Europe and purchased works of art for the gallery, including The Wrestlers and a bust of Henry Sarjeant from Italian sculptor Raffaello Romanelli.
As mayor and as a member of the Sarjeant Art Gallery Committee, Mackay worked in association with the Neames to realise Henry Sarjeant's vision.
The year after the Sarjeant opened, Mackay would be disgraced and imprisoned for the non-fatal shooting of poet Walter D'Arcy Cresswell who claimed that Mackay shot him because he had threatened to expose his homosexuality.
Mackay was sent into exile when released from prison in 1926 and died in Berlin after he was accidentally shot by a police officer during a riot in 1929.
Another key player who only recently received due credit is the Sarjeant Gallery's true architect Donald Hosie.
Hosie's design was selected from 33 submissions and credited to his employer Edmund Anscombe of Dunedin.
Hosie, aged just 22, was killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917 just three weeks after the foundation stone of the Sarjeant Gallery was laid.
Ellen Neame continued her interest in the Sarjeant Gallery as a representative on the committee, and purchasing works for the collection.
By the late 1920s, she and her husband were spending most of their time in Europe and Ellen died in London in 1939.
In the Sarjeant Gallery Collection is a portrait of her painted by an unknown artist and two well-executed paintings by Ellen Neame herself.
There is little doubt that those who worked to bring the Sarjeant Gallery into existence 100 years ago would be gratified to see where it is at now.
The building may be empty, plagued by dampness and instability but it is about to undergo restoration that will include the addition of a beautifully designed annexe behind the building.
The 8300 works in the collection are lovingly cared for at a temporary home in Taupō Quay while teams of experts are poised to restore the category 1 heritage building and begin work on the extension.
Director Greg Anderson leads a team of 21 talented and dedicated staff at the Sarjeant Gallery.
He has just completed 12 years in the role and says there have been challenging as well as deeply satisfying times.
"I think the decision to close the building and take up residence at 38 Taupo Quay until we were ready to return to the redeveloped Sarjeant would be the most significant event during my tenure," he said.
In 2014, Sarjeant staff began moving the entire collection to the temporary site which had to be renovated to house the collection, gallery, retail, offices, education and event spaces.
Anderson describes it as a "successful and monumental move".
"Every artwork had to be properly catalogued and safely looked after."
Getting the green light from Whanganui District Council for the redevelopment to start has been one of his best moments, he said.
"We're now in a position to start in the last quarter of the year and it is likely to begin in September."
Asked to select three significant works from the Sarjeant collection, Anderson chose two paintings and a photograph.
"The photograph by famed artist Ed Ruscha was my first significant purchase for the gallery and I chose it because it helps to complement and contextualise the gallery's excellent photographic collection."
One painting is a portrait of the Sarjeant Gallery's first director Gordon Brown (1974–1977) by Colin McCahon.
Brown's appointment ushered in a new era of travelling exhibitions at the Sarjeant and the painting is also significant because McCahon painted very few portraits.
"My other selection is the monumentally large canvas entitled Flight into Egypt by Frederick Goodall.
"Along with its frame, it's been undergoing extensive conservation work in preparation for its return to the Sarjeant in a couple of years."
Visitors will remember the painting hanging on the wall by the stairwell but it will not be returned to its original place.
"The entrance way to the extension will be in that spot so it will have a new location."
Thinking of the people who have driven the Sarjeant for a century, Anderson said there have been so many but his predecessor Bill Milbank stands out as the most visionary.
"It was his foresight that led to the design for the redevelopment we're working on achieving now and his quality relationships with so many significant New Zealand artists has built the collection into one of national significance."
Milbank was Sarjeant Gallery director for almost 30 years from 1978 until 2006.
It was an age of enlightenment when Māori artists came to the fore at the Sarjeant and Whanganui iwi gifted the name Te Whare o Rehua (The House of Inspiration) to the Sarjeant in 1995.
When a council led by mayor Michael Laws - who was not supportive of the gallery extension - was elected in 2004 life became very unpleasant for the Sarjeant team and Milbank's tenure as director ended two years later.
He now owns his own WHMilbank Gallery in the old druids' hall in Bell St where he continues to host exhibitions and nurture established and ascending artists.
Alongside Milbank stands his partner Raewyn Johnston who joined the Sarjeant team in 1995.
As the current events co-ordinator at the Sarjeant, she is the gallery's longest-serving staff member.
Watch the interveiw with Greg Anderson
Laws was re-elected as mayor in 2007 and former Sarjeant Gallery curator Paul Rayner said that was bad news for the Sarjeant.
"Basically it set things back by eight years," he said.
"The redevelopment could be done and dusted by now if it hadn't been for that."
Rayner first worked at the Sarjeant in 1980 when the gallery had just four staff.
It was the time when pop artist Billy Apple was working at the Sarjeant and moved The Wrestlers sculpture from beneath the central dome where it had sat for 50 years to open the space for installations.
"I know a lot of people hated that but I remember Andrew Drummond's work was installed and it was a group of woven Egyptian-themed works that were like souls departing for the next life up through the dome.
"I thought it looked amazing."
Rayner left in 1984 to complete a fine arts degree in Auckland.
"I came back in 1989 as an education officer before I went overseas for a while and then did a stint at Te Papa.
"My next stint was as curator from 1998 until 2006 and I left a few months before Bill did."
Rayner remembers the Adopt a Collier exhibition in 2004 which led to the restoration of the Sarjeant's Edith Collier collection.
"Each work had a label stating how much it would cost to restore.
"People chose one they would like to pay for and their names are forever associated with those works."
One of his favourite works in the collection is the 16th century Meissen Snowball Vase by Johann Cander.
"I love that it is so old yet looks so modern.
"I think it started me on the path to becoming a ceramic artist."
The current council is very supportive of the gallery and mayor Hamish McDouall credited his predecessors Chas Pointer and Annette Main for their support of the Sarjeant as well.
He recalls thinking of the Sarjeant as "the big building on the hill" until he visited as a teenager in the 1980s.
"There was a competition exhibition on and I was really taken with an artwork work by Don Driver who was always pretty outré.
"It inspired me to study art history later on."
McDouall said he is honoured to be the mayor who will oversee the beginning of the redevelopment although he won't be interfering with the process.
"I will leave that to the experts."
The council has agreed to act as guarantor for the $35 million redevelopment project while the Government promised to contribute on condition the Sarjeant Gallery Trust could raise the remainder.
Trust chairwoman Nicola Williams has been tirelessly fundraising for six years and was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours this year for her efforts.
Greg Anderson said the future of the Sarjeant is bright thanks to passionate support from the people of Whanganui and art lovers around New Zealand.
"I want to thank everyone who has put their hands in their pockets whether their donation was $5 or a million.
"You have all contributed to the Sarjeant's next hundred years."
Anderson said the new annexe which has Māori design elements will be named for late iwi leader Sir Archie Taiaroa.
He shared Henry Sarjeant's long-sightedness and is remembered for stating that "Our responsibilities are beyond our lifetimes and those of our children."
"We're going to make sure the legacies of Henry Sarjeant and Sir Archie Taiaroa live on in Pukenamu Queen's Park," says Anderson.
The Turn of a Century exhibition is now showing at Sarjeant on the Quay and the collection can be viewed online at collection.sarjeant.org.nz