A private collection goes public today with the opening of the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre at Auckland's Pah Homestead. Originally built in the late 1870s as a gentleman's residence for businessman James Williamson, the historic Homestead has been refurbished by the Auckland City Council at a cost of $10m to house and display the collection of James Wallace. The Auckland-based philanthropist has formed a collection of over 5,000 artworks since he picked up his first Toss Woollaston watercolour in the early 1960s. Wallace contributed $500,000 to the fitout costs and will meet the Arts Centre's annual operating costs.
Wallace doesn't review and refine his collection by selling off works that have lost some of their lustre over time and will continue to develop it as “a diary collection”. Wellington dealer Peter McLeavey, who has worked with Wallace for 40 years, says this gives it a big point of difference. “It is a unique take on the culture. He is not buying art, he is buying cultural memory. In a sense, he is also collecting a portrait of a life.”
Wallace has other plans for the new arts centre, many of which will be realised through partnerships with educational and arts institutions, citing one with Otago University that will see the recipients of arts fellowships taking up residencies at TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre and curated shows from the university's Hocken Collections featuring in the Centre's exhibition programme.
Image: Pah Homestead, Auckland NZ, now the home of the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre