The strengths of the collection of early New Zealand sculpture come from the close connection between the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and the National Art Gallery, one of Te Papa’s predecessors. Because of this association we have a strong collection of works by New Zealand artist Margaret Butler and some works by early New Zealand sculptors Francis Shurrock and William Wright.
There is a small idiosyncratic collection of International sculpture in the collection. These reflect the tastes and awareness of the New Zealand public and artists of the early twentieth century.
British and French works by Aime-Jules Dalou, Jacob Epstein, Auguste Rodin, Charles Wheeler, and Barbara Hepworth form the backbone of the international sculpture collection.
This collection was extended significantly in 1983 by the bequest of Judge Julius Isaacs, which included two works by Marcel Duchamp. A small number of sculptures were purchased as illustrative examples of artistic styles and trends in international art.
In the 1970s, the collection was developed to include New Zealand ceramics. Works by Barry Brickell, Doreen Blumhardt, Len Castle, and Anneke Boren were all purchased at this time. In addition, in 1996, all the works by New Zealand artists that had been commissioned for the 1992 Expo New Zealand in Seville were added.
With the 1993 acquisition of works from the Stone Bone Shell exhibition of New Zealand jewellery, decorative arts also began to form a component of this collection.
In the early 1980s, efforts were made to acquire works by significant contemporary New Zealand sculptors. As a consequence, we have a strong collection of works by Greer Twiss, Don Driver, Andrew Drummond, Neil Dawson, Christine Hellyar, and Vivian Lynn. In addition, efforts were made at this time to acquire sculptures by modern New Zealand artists who were not represented in the collection, such as Russell Clark.
With a growing awareness of the cultural heritage of sculptural forms within New Zealand came a significant recognition of contemporary indigenous artists. With exhibitions specifically dedicated to contemporary Maori art, the collection gathered important examples of contemporary Maori and later Pacific work. Well-known examples here are works by Fred Graham, Para Matchitt, and Michel Tuffery.
As the collection of New Zealand sculpture developed so too did the definition of sculptural form, which began to move towards incorporating installation, assemblage, site-specific works, and post-object and new media art.
Because of the nature of these forms, there are only a few in the collection. There are good examples by Ralph Hotere, Pauline Rhodes, Derrick Cherrie, Billy Apple, and Jacqueline Fraser. For the opening of the new Museum and exhibition spaces, nine site-specific sculptures were commissioned, some of which now form part of the fabric of the new building.
See all sculpture in Te Papa's collections