Arts Te Papa is changing…

We’re building a spectacular new art gallery and making changes online.

The Arts Te Papa website will be shutting down soon, but head to Collections Online to find your favourite works from New Zealand’s national art collection.

Find out more about the new art space

Keep up to date with news from Te Papa

Other Te Papa Sites

Collecting Modern

22 Aug 2014 - 18 Oct 2015

International Works gallery

Previous Exhibition


  Watch and listen to arts multimedia

Collecting Modern goes behind the scenes of Te Papa’s collection. It tells the story of how the National Art Gallery – Te Papa’s forerunner – built its collection of international modern art during the 20th century.

Four key periods of collecting are explored. Together, they reveal how changing institutional priorities, shifting ideas about modern art, and individual tastes shaped collecting choices.

This exhibition is by no means immune to such influences. It, too, reflects the tastes and interests of its curator and ideas about museum practice at a particular moment in time.

The early years
From 1936

In 1936, New Zealand’s National Art Gallery (Te Papa’s forerunner) opened its doors on Buckle Street, Wellington. Most of the initial collection was donated by the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, which had been collecting for more than 30 years in anticipation of the new gallery. Other works were donated by private supporters or funded from public subscription.

The creation of the international art collection was motivated by a desire to expose New Zealanders to contemporary art from ‘mother country’ Britain. The paintings chosen were conservative compared to the avant-garde art being made in Europe at the time. No works by Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse, or Goncharova were to be found here.

Nevertheless, many of the early acquisitions respond to modernism in their experimentation with colour, form, and subject matter.

Ernest Heber Thompson: An artist advisor
1940s–50s

From the late 1940s, the National Art Gallery (Te Papa’s forerunner) employed a London representative to recommend art works for the collection. Ernest Heber Thompson (1891–1971), an expatriate New Zealand artist, was first to take the role. Under his influence, international collecting became a little bolder, though it remained focused on British representational works.

Heber Thompson was a respected member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, with a broad knowledge of the New Zealand and British art scenes. He arranged the acquisition of works by several key 20th-century British artists, including Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, and Jacob Epstein.

Heber Thompson had an eye for works with strong emotional resonance and technical skill. His choices were not necessarily radical, but they nonetheless nudged conservative New Zealanders towards a more sophisticated appreciation of what international modern art had to offer.

Mary Chamot: The avant-garde touch
1960s–70s

In 1965, Mary Chamot (1899–1993) became the London representative for New Zealand’s National Art Gallery (forerunner of Te Papa), taking over from Ernest Heber Thompson. The works showcased here give us a glimpse of how her taste and sharp eye helped build a bolder, more sophisticated collection of international modern art.

Born in Russia to English parents, Chamot developed an expert knowledge of Russian avant-garde art and British modern painting. She later worked as a curator at London’s Tate Gallery.

Under Chamot’s guidance, New Zealand’s National Art Gallery acquired works by leading European artists of the 20th century, including Josef Albers, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Stanley Spencer, and Natalia Goncharova.

Modern masters
Late 1970s–80s

From the late 1970s, the National Art Gallery (now Te Papa) began to confront some of the gaps in its collection of international modern art. Many artists who had emerged as the most important figures of the 20th century were not represented at all.

By this time, the prices demanded for paintings by artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were staggering – out of reach for our small country. The solution was to turn to more affordable works on paper by some of these ‘modern masters’.

The strategy proved canny, producing a rich collection of interesting and unexpected works by famous artists.

Listen to curator Chelsea Nichols talk about the exhibition Collecting Modern in Off the Wall

Selected Works

Goblin market

Frank Craig

1911

If no one ever marries me

William M. Loudan

circa 1912

The death of the year

Charles Sims

1910-1912

Winter in Quebec

Alexander Young Jackson

1935

Three boys

Bernard Fleetwood-Walker

circa 1934

Finistère

Rhona Haszard

1926

Odette

Ruth Hollingsworth

circa 1915

Beryl

Harley Griffiths Senior

Venice, Santa Maria della Salute

Sir Frank Brangwyn

1906

Girl at her toilet

Glyn W. Philpot

circa 1910

Nymph and satyr

Aime-Jules Dalou

Quiet afternoon

E Heber Thompson

circa 1939

Portrait of Katherine Mansfield

Anne E. Rice

1918

Still life

Samuel J. Peploe

circa 1930

Mother and Child

Charles T. Wheeler

circa 1933

Little girl

Sydney C. Harpley

circa 1956

The blue hat

Walter R. Sickert

1914

Portrait of John Minton

Robert A. Buhler

circa 1949

Beatitudes of love VII: Romantic meeting

Sir Stanley Spencer

1938

Death of a peasant

Henry Lamb II

1911

Yehudi Menuhin

Jacob Epstein

1943

The dance

Ruskin Spear

1953

The brass bedstead

Bryan Kneale

1956

The marriage at Cana

Winifred Knights

1923

The straw hat

Mark Gertler

1924

The window

Edwin J. Pasmore

1938/47

Porteuse de raisins

Natalia S. Goncharova

circa 1911

Flower piece

Ivon Hitchens

circa 1935

Not exactly a horse

Stefan Knapp

1954

Turupu Kanumalu

Rama S. Rao

1965

The jockey

Christopher Wood

circa 1926-1927

Goblet: Uccello series

Melvin N. Day

1969

White line square XIV

Josef Albers

1966

Arrived

Josef Albers

1965

Nude and moon

Godfrey Miller

1961-64

February 2 1947 (painting J.L.M.)

Ben Nicholson

1947

Cool moon

Barbara Hepworth

1970-1971

Outer space

Natalia S. Goncharova

1957-1958

Horse and rider

Elisabeth Frink

1970

My summer's now

Graham Arnold

1974

Oval form (Trezion)

Barbara Hepworth

1964

Head (Tête)

Joseph Csaky

1921

Composition.

Piet Mondrian

1921

Composition.

Theo Van Doesburg

1924

Aus der Tierlegende. From: Genius.

Franz Marc

1912

Composition 2. From the album: Klange

Wassily Kandinsky

1911

The miller, his son and donkey. (Le meunier, son fils et l'ane) From : The Fables of La Fontaine.

Marc Chagall

1927-30

Interior with monochromes

Richard Hamilton

1979

Republic of the Southern Cross

R. B. Kitaj

1964

Bash

Eduardo Paolozzi

1971

Tongue cloud over London with Thames Ball

Claes T. Oldenburg

1976

Sinjerli variations IV. From a series of six.

Frank Stella

1977

Figures on a beach

Percy Wyndham Lewis

1920

Untitled. From a series of 16 etchings to illustrate Hesiod's `Theogony'

Georges Braque

1932-1939

Rythme/3.

Robert Delaunay

1938

The genius of the species (Le génie de l'espèce)

André Masson

1943

Horsefeathers - Thirteen series (Group II) no. XIII

Robert Rauschenberg

1972-1976

The model

Maud W. Sherwood

1919

Mediterranean market

Sir Frank Brangwyn

1916

Le verger

André Derain

1909

Binham Abbey, Norfolk

John Piper

1948

Vierge aux Sept Glaives (Virgin of the Seven Swords). From the series: Miserere

Georges Rouault

1922–1927

Portrait of Mary Chamot

Nadia Benois

1927

Joachim among the shepherds

Sir Stanley Spencer

1913

Double portrait No. 2 (Katharine and Anthony West)

Frances Hodgkins

1937

Zelah No. 2, 1963

Denis Mitchell

1963

Design for sculpture

Henry Moore

1949

Design for sculpture

Henry Moore

1949

Standing and reclining figures

Henry Moore

1950

Collage, still life with black head

John Piper

1933

Mirmande landscape (Paysage Mirmande)

Andre Lhote

1925

Ecce Homo. From: 'The Passion' by André Suarès

Georges Rouault

1936

Self-portrait

Man Ray

1947-1968

Fragment - according to what - leg and chair

Jasper Johns

1971

Industry and the arts

Roy Lichtenstein

1969

Le modèle et deux personnages

Pablo Picasso

1954

Woman reading

Eileen Agar

1936

Waistcoat [Betty]

Marcel Duchamp

1961

Chess players.

Marcel Duchamp

1965

Rhythms (Rythmes)

Max Ernst

1950

Woman attacked by birds (Femme attaquee par des oiseaux)

André Masson

1947

I'm dreaming of a black Christmas

Richard Hamilton

1971

Self portrait

Dame Laura Knight

circa 1913

Bridget

Daniel O'Neill

circa 1953

The heart called Paris spring

Jim Dine

1982

Programme of Opening Ceremony

National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum New Zealand

1 August 1936

Souvenir Catalogue of Pictures and Works of Art for Opening Exhibition

National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum New Zealand

August 1936

The National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum

L. T. Watkins Ltd., and M Mathews

1936

Notre Dame, Paris.

Henri Matisse

1937

Groupe de femmes

Sonia Delaunay

1925

Other Exhibitions
Bottle - goldfish on vortex plinth

John Parker: Handmade Precision

-

Dish

European Splendour 1500-1800

-

The Clown from Fulham Road

Inspired: Ceramics and jewellery shaped by the past

18 Mar 2016 - Sep 2016

Whakapakoko Tutei

Nga Kaihanga Uku

20 Jan 2016 - 13 Mar 2016

Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of Imagery from NSA MYSTIC, FOXACID, QUANTUMTHEORY, and Other SSO/TAO Slides

Simon Denny: Secret Power

-

Untitled. From 'The object series'

Alexis Hunter: The model’s revenge

09 Sep 2016 -

Max Gimblett, <EM>Remembrance</EM>, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and The Friends of St David’s Trust

The Art of Remembrance

16 Mar 2016 - 07 Aug 2016

Untitled #6. From the portfolio: 10 Screenprints

Maori minimalism and international influence - Te Ao Hou | Modern Maori Art

-

Knowledge on a beam of starlight (panel 1)

Kerry Ann Lee: Knowledge on a beam of starlight

22 Aug 2014 - Mar 2016

Untitled

The Anzac print portfolio

-

 Flower dish

Walter Cook: A collector's quest

21 Jul 2012 - 06 Mar 2016

Portrait taken amongst kauri gum diggers, Te Papa

Adorned | Whakarakei

-

Milford Sound, cascade from Mitre

New Zealand Photography Collected

06 Nov 2015 - 07 Aug 2016

Bluescape

John Drawbridge: Oceanscapes

02 Jul 2015 - 02 Nov 2015

View of Mt Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand, taken from New Plymouth, with Maoris driving off settlers’ cattle

Unsettling

06 Nov 2015 - 17 Jan 2016

Matt Pine, <em>Placement Projects: revisited</em>, 2016. Photograph by Mike O'Neill. Te Papa

Matt Pine: Placement Projects revisited

-

Up in the sky #11

Filmic imaginaries: Jacqueline Fraser and Tracey Moffatt

16 Aug 2016 -

Sataua, Savai'i, Western Samoa, 1982. From the series: Polynesia here and there

Glenn Jowitt: Photographing the Pacific

02 Apr 2015 - 02 Nov 2015

Elongation. From the series: House Alterations

Open Home: Contemporary New Zealand artists explore home life

-

Wanker

Splash! Four contemporary New Zealand paintings

02 Apr 2015 - 26 Oct 2015

The first view of the valley, Yosemite, from the Mariposa Trail

Carleton Watkins

06 Nov 2015 - 28 Aug 2016

Fay and Jane Birkinshaw

New Visions, New Zealand

-

The painted dream garden

Two Artists: Emily Karaka & Shona Rapira Davies

02 Apr 2015 - 18 Oct 2015

The Terraces

Framing the View

-

Tïvaevae ta’örei pepe e pua kaute (quilt with butterfly and hibiscus pattern)

Tivaevae: Out of the glory box

02 Apr 2015 - 11 Oct 2015

Santo Stefano, Capri

Louis Rosenberg: Etched into memory

02 Apr 2015 - 18 Oct 2015

Nopera Te Ngiha

Ngati Toa Rangatira: He iti whetu | Ngati Toa portraits

02 Apr 2015 - 31 Jul 2016

Helen Hitchings holding a carved wooden cat

The Gallery of Helen Hitchings

-

Tä Moko panel

Kanohi Kitea | Maori & Pacific Encounters

29 Mar 2013 - 01 Mar 2015

He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river

Black Rainbow: Ralph Hotere & Michael Parekowhai

22 Mar 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

Figures in landscape

Emblems of Identity

29 Mar 2013 - 01 Mar 2015

Charger

Being Modern

29 Mar 2013 - 01 Mar 2015

Te Kooti at Ruatahuna

Te Ao Hou | Modern Maori Art

02 Apr 2015 - 31 Jul 2016

Winter in Quebec

Collecting Modern

22 Aug 2014 - 18 Oct 2015

Boy Am I Scarred Eh

Peter Robinson: Retorts & comebacks

22 Aug 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

The dinner party

Framing the Museum

22 Aug 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

Waharoa (gateway)

Art throughout Te Papa

-

"Un Grime" Musique de Ravel (An Actor)

Natalia Goncharova: A visual radical

22 Aug 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

Daylight flotsam Venice

Bill Culbert in Venice

22 Aug 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

Martha Graham - 'Ekstasis'

Anonymous Bodies

22 Aug 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

I was born in the Pacific Equinox

Contemporary Pacific Art

Nov 2014 - 01 Mar 2015

A grain of wheat

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943–2014)

19 Oct 2014 - 23 Nov 2014

The giant stride

Speed and Colour: British linocuts of the 1930s

01 Feb 2014 - 15 Jun 2014

Land List

Meridian Lines: Contemporary art from New Zealand

21 Sep 2013 - 25 May 2014

The marriage at Cana

Winifred Knights: The Marriage at Cana

12 May 2014 - 20 Jul 2014

The living room (The 'great living room' with open timber roof. The dining room to left. The great table 5' 6 x 9' with top cut from a single rimu log originally 6' through. The bay window looks across the Bight to Egmont in the distance - A view seldom equalled)

Letting Us In

18 Jan 2014 - 20 Jul 2014

Marken funeral barge

Petrus van der Velden: Art of two halves

19 Oct 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

This is the Trekka

Michael Stevenson: This is the Trekka

19 Oct 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

Poster for 'James K. Baxter Festival 1973: Four Plays'

Walk with Me

19 Oct 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

Bangle

Bone Stone Shell

19 Oct 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

Autumn mist

Art of the 20th Century

29 Mar 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

Light Fall

Bill Culbert's Light Fall

22 Aug 2014 - 19 Oct 2014

Lake Matheson, Westland

Brian Brake: Lens on the World

14 Dec 2011 - 20 Jul 2014

Te Papa poster no. 22

Artist Project: Andrew McLeod

29 Mar 2013 - 20 Jul 2014

Shi Lu Painting a lotus flower

Shi Lu: A revolution in paint

21 Mar 2014 - 22 Jun 2014

Water lilies in painted pond. From the series: Lower Hutt: two public places

Slight Arrangements

04 Feb 2014 - 12 May 2014

Atua #4

Darryn George: Maori abstraction

Dec 2013 - 03 Feb 2014

Untitled (Textile design no III)

Frances Hodgkins: Textile designs

19 Oct 2013 - 16 Jan 2014

Reading on the Rocks, Grand Manan

Colour & Light: Impressionism from France & America

13 Jul 2013 - 12 Jan 2014

The girl with flaxen hair

Figures in Light

19 Oct 2013 - 02 Dec 2013

Chester Karnofsky

Warhol Aotearoa

06 Aug 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Blue and green Pacific

Kainga, Whenua, Moana | Home, Land, & Sea

29 Mar 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Orange on black

Black Rainbow: Ralph Hotere & Michael Parekowhai

29 Mar 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Tawa. From the portfolio: Barry Lett Multiples

Gordon Walters

29 Mar 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Life at Yuwa Dreaming

Gifted: Aboriginal art 1971–2011

29 Mar 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Shadow, New York City. From the portfolio: 15 Photographs by Lee Friedlander

On Looking: International photographs

29 Mar 2013 - 29 Sep 2013

Warhol: Immortal banner image

Warhol: Immortal

01 Jun 2013 - 25 Aug 2013

Churchward Design Bold Print Negative

Joseph Churchward

31 May 2013 - 05 Aug 2013

Emerey Weschlette

Yvonne Todd

29 Mar 2013 - 30 May 2013

Bill Culbert, <EM>Daylight flotsam Venice</EM> and <EM>Level</EM>, photograph by Jennifer French, 2013

New Zealand at Venice 2013: Front Door Out Back

29 May 2013 - 24 Nov 2013

Amiens. From the series: The consolation of philosophy: Piko nei te matenga

Remembering the Maori Battalion: Michael Parekowhai

16 Mar 2015 - Jul 2015