Mayor Hamish McDouall, who was born and raised in Whanganui, has long been a regular visitor to the Sarjeant Gallery – both at Pukenamu Queen's Park and Sarjeant on the Quay.
Over the years he and his family have viewed much of the vast permanent collection in various Sarjeant Gallery exhibitions.
McDouall is the first person to be invited to select his favourite works from the Sarjeant's amazing permanent collection for a brand new exhibition series called My Choice.
Chosen by people with a connection to Whanganui and the Sarjeant, the mayor's My Choice selection is on display at Sarjeant on the Quay now and is available to view via the Sarjeant website's "Explore the Collection" portal to the collection.
"Two years ago I was thinking I should find a way to celebrate things I loved about Whanganui and I was joking around about selecting 100 favourite paintings and so I approached the Sarjeant to see if I could make a selection for an exhibition," said McDouall.
Initially he choose 23 works from the collection, but worked with curator of collections, Jennifer Taylor Moore, to whittle down his selection so it could fit on the gallery wall space with the new winter exhibitions of works by Denys Watkins and Peter Trevelyan.
His final selection was is diverse – from a 1919 Italian painting of medieval towers, to an iconic Michael Illingworth piece – to contemporary mixed media works including sculpture, photography and an installation.
Two of the works chosen by McDouall have a direct connection to Whanganui. Mark Braunias' London Town, measuring more than 2m wide, is inspired by advertisements for London Town, a Whanganui department store founded in 1928 and closed in 1989.
"Every kid who grew up in Whanganui in the 1970s and 1980s knew London Town. It was the only place with an escalator and our biggest department store. It was always exciting to go there."
McDouall said Braunias captures the excitement of London Town with his "incredible" painting, which "could be the flag of Whanganui if it was made into canvas".
The only photograph selected, Laurence Aberhart's The Sarjeant, Back View, captures a view which, with the upcoming redevelopment of the Sarjeant, will not be there for much longer.
Of this work McDouall said: "Laurence Aberhart seems to be able to find the mystery and magic in every building. He's taken a photograph of the back side of the Sarjeant and produced something almost Californian. This is a record of how the building has stood for 100 years and when the new wing is built we won't be able to see this view anymore."
Taylor Moore says the intention with My Choice is to demystify the world of art.
"We want to show that people enjoy the gallery collection for all sorts of reasons – whether it's purely visually appealing, has political or historic significance or means something to them personally."
"We hope people will come to the Sarjeant to see what Mayor Hamish has selected, but also that they will watch the series of monthly My Choice exhibitions unfold on the Sarjeant Gallery's website," said Taylor Moore.
Says McDouall of the overall project: "I wish I could have had a choice of 100 works but I chose a small number which I thought were fairly representative of the different kind of styles I like. Some I have a personal connection to, some make me think."
My Choice is one of the exhibitions kicking off the Sarjeant's winter season which also includes Peter Trevelyan's complex and beautiful Delineate and Denys Watkins' vibrant paintings in Dynamo Hum.
My Choice runs from May 18 to 25 August 25 at Sarjeant on the Quay and is available to view online at https://collection.sarjeant.org.nz/explore